Return to Mars

Return to Mars finishes what Mars started–and I really feel like they might have been better as one book. There was such a huge tantalizing idea dangled in front of us in the first book–not only life on Mars, but intelligent life?–only for a rush to the ending so that we never got to actually get answers. At least we do actually get answers in Return to Mars, but in such a way that it really feels like half the same book.

Plotwise, Return to Mars does at least explore some interesting ideas in how Martian exploration may actually take shape in the future, with private backing and a profit motive, rather than as a purely government run, scientific endeavor. It’s an interesting contrast to Mars at least, even if it feels like they’ve taken a number of steps back from the first mission in effort to cut costs (one assumes).

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Moonwar

Moonwar finishes the story of Moonrise, really establishing Moonbase as a power in the solar system in its own right and a refuge from the growing New Morality movements on Earth–especially when it comes to developing nano-technology.

There are certainly parts of the story that are hard to believe–particularly just how much control the UN has over … well, anything, but especially the media. It’s just… strange and feels like a manufactured threat. On the other hand, the idea of a religious far right growing to power and working to completely ban ‘unnatural’ technology (like nanomachines) feels altogether too prescient.

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Moonrise

A bit of a jump in focus and topic from Mars , Moonrise is more similar to Privateers et al (the Dan Randolph books), with more of a focus on corporate structure over science.

Amusingly, despite the title/series, Moonrise is only tangentially about the Moonbase, despite a large chunk of the book taking place there. Really, it’s about the bizarre broken family and corporate dynamic of Masterson Aerospace and the rise of nanotechnology in Ben Bova’s universe. From what I remember of other books in the series (from more than a decade ago), the rise of technology and the idea of it being banned on Earth for religious reasons is a fairly major plot point from here on out, so it’s interesting to see how that all began.

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Dark Matter

We’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.

I went into Dark Matter not actually knowing much about the book. So the first couple of chapters (where the main character is kidnapped by mysterious figures, has his whole life turned upside down, and then apparently meets his wife for the first time) was… intense.

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Moon Shades

Moon Shades is a bit of an odd book in that plotwise, it doesn’t actually have much to do with either The Fallen or especially the big events of Harbinger, at least not until the last few chapters of the book. After everything, I expected more.

But it’s still an interesting enough book on it’s own merits. Essentially, it’s a fairly standard ‘something took the children… and our neighbors are WEREWOLVES!’ type story (which is amusingly specific enough to be a trope) with Chivali and the Fallen as an entrypoint into the world. We learn a very little bit about magic in this world, along with the aforementioned werewolves (pretty standard).

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Mars

My favorite of The Grand Tour books so far, by a decent margin.

It’s closer to ‘pure’ science fiction than the previous three, with the exploration of Mars and the science of getting there and exploring taking the front seat, with a lesser focus on politics and character than the previous books (although there still a decent amount of both).

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