||Blueberry Lane Books
||Mar 27, 2011
Hard SF techno-thriller featuring Olympics on Mars in 2038 with dangerous new sports and a volcano targeted by terrorists.
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The tiny colony at Mars launched during an Earth emergency sits uneasy, starved and hopeless until the astonishing news that a new wave of political intrigue has landed it the Twenty Eighth Winter Olympics in 2038. In this near-future tale, a wide cast of villains and heroes each have conflicting visions of what comes next including a new method of unleashing geothermal energy to be tested on Mars' volcanoes like the dormant Olympus Mons where the Olympic Village has been built. Olympian lovers Yves Loitte and Terri Finney find themselves in the middle of a power struggle that may end in the destruction of all they hold dear.
MARS ARMOR FORGED is a techno thriller for those who love a hard SF showcase and the rich Mars subgenre.
"Up-skiers," Coburn snarled with mock contempt. "Anyone who thought I was crazy has to take a look at these guys."
"I know I wouldn't do it."
"They're willing to kill themselves to prove the IOC was right in finally making it an Olympic sport. Of course, none of us Americans qualified."
"You're just mad because that guy has a cobra printed on his parasail," said Loitte.
"That punk is ripping me off."
Yves laughed. "Look at that. He caught a draft."
"No shit, he caught a tornado."
It all happened too quickly. After the initial tug, the parasail strings suddenly went taut and the man was pulled up the embankment in a breakneck snap, furiously fighting the towlines like a ten-year-old trying to confine a furious Rottweiler to his leash. A woman in the audience crossed herself, and his coach shouted an oath.
The upskiier opened his vent to cut the drag, but not entirely since he was unwilling to let the draft get away. His coach was waving his arms and shouting something unintelligible. The wind was too strong and the man too cocky. Before he knew it, he ran out of places to go, dropping into a pocket of the mountain, letting out a chilling scream as he went. The wind had released him.
Back in Coubertin Square, the clock said: 000:17:59.
Hard Science Fiction
The first impression I had of "Mars Armor Forged" was "vintage Bradbury". Like Bradbury, Parris's writing dwells lovingly on the scientific aspects of his story. The central conceit--that of holding the Winter Olympics on Mars--is worked out to be not as unbelievable as it seems at first glance, and the geological scheming that is the real reason for the games's move is meticulously explained. (Even I understand geothermal energy now, I think.)
Like Bradbury, however, in this novel much of the dialogue and many characters are only there to justify the existence of the science. The dialogue is clunky in places toward the beginning of the novel and occasionally almost quaint, and I'm pretty sure the author was a victim of autocorrect at one point (a "slattern" is an untidy person, not a promiscuous person).
But the description and the technology make up, in large part, for these flaws. My favorite character, I think, was Mars herself (himself? surely Mars is male). Parris describes the red planet with as much familiarity as if he had a summer house there, and the gadgetry he invents to make human habitation possible has a very possible feel.
If you like plot-driven, old-school science fiction, you'll enjoy this. I'll be keeping an eye out for the sequel, which is due to come out soon.
Action and Intrigue!
Ben Parris does not disappoint! Having enjoyed his historical fantasy "Wade of Aquitaine" I was curious to see what he could do with Science Fiction. The premise was unique and inspired - a series of intigues surrounding the 2038 Olympic games held on Mars. The science is well-thought-out but not overwhelming. A large cast of characters, well-drawn, play out their roles with precision and few mis-steps. Overall, a very good story well told. Highly recommended.
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