It is the 21st century, and on Mars a dedicated group of pioneers - among them some of Earth's finest brains - struggle to change the face of the planet. Science fiction writer Martin Gibson finally gets a chance to visit the research colony on the Red Planet. It's a dream come true - until he discovers the difficulties and perils of survival on another world...and the very real terror it holds.
©1951 Arthur C. Clarke (P)2016 W F Howes Ltd
"One of the truly prophetic figures of the space age. The colossus of science fiction." (The New Yorker)
Story is not as good as his other works a bit dull less intriguing, voice actor is perfect for the story very easy to listen to.
The discussion between the main character Martin Gibson (a Science Fiction writer) and a space liner crew member about how science fiction can become dated. This seems like an aside to the reader as the author will have known how true this is.
This was written in 1951 and is set in a future time (Wikipedia reckons it is set in the 1990s) so you need to read it with that in mind - there are few computers, and no hand held computers, they valves in the radio sets and people still using typewriters in a time where there are nuclear rockets and colonies on Mars and the Moon.
It is a simple story but one I have always enjoyed reading, I enjoyed listening to it also.
Having read the Rama series from Arthur C Clarke and enjoyed them, I was alerted by Audible that the "Sands of Mars" was now available and so I took a punt on it as I like science fiction stories that focus on Mars.
On the rare occasion that I return a book, I have managed to get through the entire thing hoping it would improve but in the case of this book I am rather sad to say that I gave up somewhere in chapter 3 I think. I really wanted to get to the part of the book that dealt with the actual experience of living on Mars but I could no longer stand the terribly dated style and references in this story. It's not so much a criticism per sae of Clarke's work because no author can predict future events and technologies to any real degree of accuracy but given the copyright date of this title as being 1951, a date before man had even set foot on the Moon, the era in which this was penned and the jarring contrasts of technologies just makes this book hard to enjoy.
The nail in the coffin was the narration. Greg Wagland has a good voice and rather sounds like the narrator of some Discovery channel documentaries I've seen but he delivers the story in a tone rather like that of a documentary and has the rather annoying trait of placing slight but noticeable gaps between words that have no punctuation as if coming to the end of a printed line and having to pause as he starts the reading on from the next line. This has the effect of breaking sentences and giving the prose and uneven flow. I spotted early on a glaring error when he said the word "Occulted" rather than the obvious correct word which would have been "Occluded". It was clear to me based on context and common sense that the word was wrong and yet narrator nor production crew picked up on this and this has been a bit of a bug bear of mine with many audio books which seem to leave the narrator to his own devices and only fix things like leaving sentences out.
The documentary style delivery is not helped by the similarly documentary style of writing this book seems to exhibit. I'm guessing this is one of Clarke's earlier works and that he hasn't yet honed his writing skills. Either that or the style is of its time and only adds to the dated feel of this story. I knew things were bad when one character offered another a cigarette in the space craft and the fact that in over an hour of listening I hadn't recalled the term computer mentioned. Instead, we hear of an "electronic calculating machine" along with type writers and fax machines. Now, again, I know that in 1951 it is difficult to envisage where technology will be more than 50 years in the future from the authors point of view but there is a terribly lop-sided vision of the future that sees man able to make use of nuclear powered space vehicles to journey to Mars and other planets within our Solar System and yet we have characters still using a type writer. The odd juxtaposition is difficult to ignore and Clarke has made the classic error of applying current technology to a world half a century into the future which is strange as Clarke has been one of those writers to have accurately predicted several of the key innovations over the decades. The much safer bet for any science fiction author is to either avoid being specific about anything other than the most exotic of technologies or if you want to mention things like type writers or electronic calculating machines then use very generic terms like composing an article or information system. The other element that further dates this story is the characters and the use of language. The captain of the Aries is the stereotypical English upper crust gentlemen with his clipped accent and the crew even have a cabin boy which is just like something from the 1930's and just seems ridiculous. I stuck this out until chapter 3 without any sign of Mars as the pacing was so slow. perhaps this is the sign of the times we live in where we find it hard to plod along at the pace set in this book and to be fair,I'm sure that in its time this story was exciting but to me it's age and narration make it ponderous and just plain old fashioned.
It is clear that Clarke at the time did his best to come up with something that would appeal and enthral readers in the 50's at the notion of "Atomic" powered space craft flown by the archetypal English gent but I'm sad to say that it just doesn't work on any level.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.