White Mars by Aldiss and Penrose

Damien Broderick (d.broderick@english.unimelb.edu.au)
Thu, 28 Oct 1999 12:40:55 +0000

Here's something of interest to the sf readers & utopians & microtubules here:

White Mars
Brian Aldiss, Roger Penrose
Hardcover - 256 pages (25 November, 1999) Little, Brown & Company; ISBN: 0316852430

White Mars is, as its title implies, Brian Aldiss's considered reply to the novels--Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars--in which Kim Stanley Robinson portrayed the terraforming of our neighbour planet and the creation of a utopian society there. Aldiss disapproves of the whole idea of meddling with another world in the first place, and also, more genially, of the melodrama surrounding the creation of Robinson's utopia. Where Robinson's Martians get their chance after near-genocidal warfare on Mars, and environmental disaster on Earth, Aldiss's get theirs as the result of a corruption and scandal-fuelled recession in which supplies for the Martian colony are a victim of cuts. This is, unusually for the shrewd and sometimes cynical Aldiss, a novel with a hero--Tom Jeffreys, the Thomas Jefferson of this Martian revolution:

"His manner was less severe than well controlled. He showed great determination for the cause in which he believed, yet softened it with humour, which sprang from an innate modesty. He was not above self-mockery. In his speech he adopted the manner of a plain man, yet what he said was often unexpected."

This is a very English, and a very urbane book, in which there is an awful lot of talk--about utopia, about consciousness, about sub-atomic particles; Aldiss collaborated on parts of the book with mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose--this is a wise book and also a knowledgeable one. --Roz Kaveney