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To mark the arrival of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe in orbit around Mars, here’s a look at some of the best novels about the red planet.
The Martian by Andy Weir, 2011
Originally self-published, then snapped up by Penguin Random House and eventually brought to an even bigger audience thanks to the film starring Matt Damon, this story of an astronaut left behind on Mars is praised by scientists and literary folk alike. But…
No Man Friday, by Rex Gordon, 1956
… it turns out that Andy Weir wasn’t there first! This novel by British author Rex Gordon was published in the US more than 50 years before Weir. It tells the story of a British rocket that suffers an explosion in the airlock that kills the entire crew except for engineer Gordon Holder, the novel’s narrator, who was returning from an EVA [‘extravehicular activity’ ie a space walk) and is still in his space suit. The craft crash lands on the planet and Holder has to learn how to survive.
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, 1993
This is the first novel in the US author’s famous Mars trilogy which was followed by Green Mars and Blue Mars. Published in 1993, it was described by Publishers Weekly as “[A]n action-packed and thoughtful tale of the exploration and settlement of Mars—driven by both personal and ideological conflicts—in the early 21st century.”
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, 1950
A famous book by the award-winning US writer who died in 2012. It chronicles the settlement of Mars by Americans leaving a troubled Earth that is eventually devastated by nuclear war. Bradbury imagines a place of hope, dreams and metaphor.
The Sands of Mars by Arthur C Clarke, 1951
The first published novel by one of the most famous names in SF, it tells the story of a renowned science fiction writer who joins the spaceship Ares, the world’s first interplanetary ship for passenger travel, on its maiden voyage to Mars. His task: to report back to earth on how the new colony on Mars is progressing.
Moving Mars by Greg Bear, 1993
A novel that some see as an allegory for the US battle for independence 300 years ago. Mars has been colonised and now the second and third generation born on the planet want their independence from earth.
Mars by Ben Bova, 1992
A long novel that covers a long voyage – humanity’s first expedition to Mars. Kirkus Reviews said: “Technically accurate and absorbing if somewhat ponderous at times, with questions and answers reliably in balance: a dependable, satisfying foray into science realism.”
Genesis, an Epic Poem, by Frederick Turner, 1988
The first major work of fiction to look at the idea of terraforming Mars. NASA made the book recommended reading for its staff in the Eighties.
The Martian Race, Gregory Benford, 1999
With its clever title, this is a captivating novel about two competing teams battling to be first to the Red planet and then back to collect a huge cash prize. Publishers Weekly said: “A practicing physicist, he writes plausible hard SF as well as anyone on the planet, and his portrait of Mars is among the most believable in recent genre literature.”
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein, 1961
One of the most famous SF titles of all time and winner of the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Novel. This intriguing story follows the return of Valentine Smith to earth having been born on Mars and raised by Martians. Its haunting, poetic title comes from the Bible.