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The Empress of Mars

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When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet—only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars. This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet—only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars. This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It’s the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan, of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another Company entirely, all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world. But Mary and her struggles and triumphs is at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars. Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, which forms about a third of this novel.


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When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet—only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars. This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet—only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars. This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It’s the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan, of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another Company entirely, all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world. But Mary and her struggles and triumphs is at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars. Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, which forms about a third of this novel.

30 review for The Empress of Mars

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    Effortless is perhaps the best word I can use to describe Kage Baker's prose. The act of reading Baker's work, too, is effortless. Her ideas are multilayered and challenging, her references sly and knowledgeable, but falling into her world and her vision takes no work whatsoever. She opens the door, and I'm there. I do admire and miss her singular talent. She had me at this early description: ""He had spent most of his adult life in Hospital and a good bit of his childhood, too, ever since (havin Effortless is perhaps the best word I can use to describe Kage Baker's prose. The act of reading Baker's work, too, is effortless. Her ideas are multilayered and challenging, her references sly and knowledgeable, but falling into her world and her vision takes no work whatsoever. She opens the door, and I'm there. I do admire and miss her singular talent. She had me at this early description: ""He had spent most of his adult life in Hospital and a good bit of his childhood, too, ever since (having at the age of ten been caught reading a story by Edgar Allan Poe) he had been diagnosed as Eccentric." The "Empress of Mars" title works in three ways: 1) it refers to the Queen of England (who technically rules Mars); 2) it's the name of the only bar on the planet, "Empress of Mars"; and 3) it's the well-deserved description of Mary Griffith, the owner of the bar. Terraforming isn't going well on Mars, and Griffith's bar resembles nothing so much as the Island of Misfit toys. That makes it the perfect place to launch and fight for a new future for the planet. Baker's work evokes the best of Burroughs and Heinlein and Bradbury -- and not a little of Joss Whedon's take on the space western, for that matter -- with a decidedly Anglophilic twist. Although this technically takes place within the universe of Baker's Company series, it stands very well on its own. Lovers of classic science fiction, clever adventure, and subtle social commentary will find much to enjoy here.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    Wanted something light and fun ... this 2nd reread is filling the bill. (Original review below.) ======== I read about half of the books in Baker's "The Company" series before I stopped caring about it. This book is only tangentially connected to that series and I honestly didn't recognize the two obvious Company characters who were included. It is an enjoyable "Western" romp on Mars as seen via Mary Griffith who runs the local saloon and represents society on the fringes being oppressed by big bu Wanted something light and fun ... this 2nd reread is filling the bill. (Original review below.) ======== I read about half of the books in Baker's "The Company" series before I stopped caring about it. This book is only tangentially connected to that series and I honestly didn't recognize the two obvious Company characters who were included. It is an enjoyable "Western" romp on Mars as seen via Mary Griffith who runs the local saloon and represents society on the fringes being oppressed by big business. As people come and go we see their individual stories and how they fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is this Martian colony. I really loved the romantic Ottorino Vespucci, scion of a wealthy but boring Earth family. He's a misfit due to his love of adventure and "translates" all the finagling for power in the Martian colony in terms of Western movies. And it fits. I also really enjoyed Baker's ability to tell the truth without worrying about letting the chips fall where they may. Proper society is one that we might predict from watching current popular sociological trends. Although the "Goddess" worship popular among Mary and her cronies is linked to the Virgin of Guadalupe, it is also a nebulous sort of faith which encompasses something far beyond any Christian understanding of the Virgin Mary. And yet Baker isn't afraid to include Christians among those who would be thrown into the Hospital for Eccentrics, which is something a good many authors would have been blind to, depending upon their own prejudices. Overall a fun, light romp.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe

    This is one I'd missed since my prior reading of the series. Such rich stuff: a collection of misfits and eccentrics who boldly set out to terraform Mars find themselves in opposition to the corporation, BAC, who administers the colony, and which also tries to screw them over at every opportunity. Many of the colonists originally came up as employees with specialized skills, but then BAC dumped them with not enough money to pay their fare to earth or the moon. Our cast includes Mary, the plucky b This is one I'd missed since my prior reading of the series. Such rich stuff: a collection of misfits and eccentrics who boldly set out to terraform Mars find themselves in opposition to the corporation, BAC, who administers the colony, and which also tries to screw them over at every opportunity. Many of the colonists originally came up as employees with specialized skills, but then BAC dumped them with not enough money to pay their fare to earth or the moon. Our cast includes Mary, the plucky botanist, and mother of three daughters who turned her severance package into a pub/hostel. There's a clan of cooperative of Irish farmers, rugged ice-haulers, an escaped nun of sorts, and others, even less probable folk. There is a Wild West feeling brought vividly to the plot by an Italian immigrant living the spaghetti western dream. Of course the plucky misfits beat the big bad BAC, and romance is found for many people, and the good are rewarded and the bad, mostly punished. My only complaint is that, once again, Baker relegated most of the female characters to the role of "beloved" which is weak and dull. But still, a delight. A fun contrast to The Martian. Library copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    My first Kage Baker novel, and this is apparently a later entry in her "Company" series, but I found it stood alone just fine. The Empress of Mars is set in an alternate history, where Mars was settled by the British Arean Company, and then mostly left to dry up as unprofitable. A few hardscrabble settlers, emigrating to Mars for the usual reasons that misfits emigrate to backwater frontiers, or else abandoned by the Company when they were no longer useful, are now scratching out a living there. My first Kage Baker novel, and this is apparently a later entry in her "Company" series, but I found it stood alone just fine. The Empress of Mars is set in an alternate history, where Mars was settled by the British Arean Company, and then mostly left to dry up as unprofitable. A few hardscrabble settlers, emigrating to Mars for the usual reasons that misfits emigrate to backwater frontiers, or else abandoned by the Company when they were no longer useful, are now scratching out a living there. Although there are multiple story arcs running through this book, it reads more like a collection of linked short stories than a single novel, probably because it's based on a novella (which I haven't read). The central figure is Mary Griffith, formerly a scientist for the British Arean Company who came to Mars as a single mother with two daughters, and found herself stranded when the company no longer had need of her services. Now she runs a bar, has to contend with Clan Morrigan, a band of homesteaders who are Celtic tribesmen run like a corporation, and the always conniving and grasping antics of the BAC. A range of interesting characters come to Mars — miners, con men, secret agents, and missionaries from the Mother Church (which in this universe is the "Mother Goddess Church" — Christians are a minority subject to considerable prejudice). The stories weave through years of the life of Mary and the Martian colony, ending with the bankruptcy of the British Arean Company, only to be replaced by another company, just as mercenary, and Mary's attempt to move her bar, the Empress of Mars. The Empress of Mars inevitably reminded me a bit of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, and a bit of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, but Baker's book is more character-driven, and has the added element of that alternate history, for which the point of divergence is never described. I found it to be lots of fun from start to finish, one of those books with a large cast of characters, all of whom become familiar friends by the end.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lightreads

    A beerily maniacal skiffy romp. A bunch of social misfits do what people do when they’re shipped off to colonize Mars: run a bar, have babies, and give the bureaucrats a serious fucking headache. The sort of cheerfully madcap book that has sentences like, “And that was the end of Marsha the cow,” and “’I’ll just go off and see an oppressive corporate monolithic evil entity about a dog, shall I?’” That really gives you all the flavor you need. There’s some other stuff about church power struggles A beerily maniacal skiffy romp. A bunch of social misfits do what people do when they’re shipped off to colonize Mars: run a bar, have babies, and give the bureaucrats a serious fucking headache. The sort of cheerfully madcap book that has sentences like, “And that was the end of Marsha the cow,” and “’I’ll just go off and see an oppressive corporate monolithic evil entity about a dog, shall I?’” That really gives you all the flavor you need. There’s some other stuff about church power struggles and the deeper powers moving behind them, but you know, that is so completely not the point. A delight. Caution: Do not confuse this, the novel, with Baker's novella of the same name.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    Mary Griffith went to Mars as a biologist for the British Aerean Company, but when BAC pulled back from a full on push to terraform and colonize, she found herself out of work. Unfortunately, her severance package was only about half what she needed to cover a trip back to Earth. So she opened a bar, The Empress of Mars. The beer isn't great, but it's not just the best beer on Mars, but the only beer on Mars. She and her three daughters, along with a collection of similarly displaced people, earn Mary Griffith went to Mars as a biologist for the British Aerean Company, but when BAC pulled back from a full on push to terraform and colonize, she found herself out of work. Unfortunately, her severance package was only about half what she needed to cover a trip back to Earth. So she opened a bar, The Empress of Mars. The beer isn't great, but it's not just the best beer on Mars, but the only beer on Mars. She and her three daughters, along with a collection of similarly displaced people, earn a decent living running the bar--despite repeated challenges and efforts to shut them down for selling a "controlled substance," i.e., the beer. This is a very episodic book. I haven't check its history, but it feels a lot like a fix-up, built out of related short stories. Regardless, it's a fun book, with good characters that are fun to get to know. Heroes, villains, eccentric geniuses, corrupt corporate villains, frontier settlers with loose ethics that will be familiar to anyone familiar with westerns, in a book built around the colonization of a cold, dry planet with very thin atmosphere. Lots of fun. Read it, or listen to it. I bought this audiobook.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    A corporate-funded attempt to settle Mars gets defunded after the settlers arrive, and the company isn't interested in spending the money it would take to get them back to Earth. Mary, once a company biologist with an interest in lichen, starts a pub and makes the best of things. This is a fairly light-hearted, mildly humorous novel. It took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of, which is Pratchett's Discworld stories: a cast of broadly-drawn characters, with the book taking diversions A corporate-funded attempt to settle Mars gets defunded after the settlers arrive, and the company isn't interested in spending the money it would take to get them back to Earth. Mary, once a company biologist with an interest in lichen, starts a pub and makes the best of things. This is a fairly light-hearted, mildly humorous novel. It took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of, which is Pratchett's Discworld stories: a cast of broadly-drawn characters, with the book taking diversions into their background, while we follow a story of historical progress. It doesn't have Pratchett's wit or way with words, but it's likeable enough and kept my attention (except for a bit of middle-story drearies). On the down side, there were a few things that hit my regular dislikes. Mary is relatively active and one of the stubborn-determined style of female character - but there are always men around her who know more about what's going on than she does. Her daughters are...well, I don't see them having much in the way of interests or ambitions and intellectual life, and their plots are more about being sulky or uncertain or angry while the men they marry actually do things. I may try another Baker some time in the future, but this doesn't have me rushing to grab more.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    I feel like I should say something like, "oh crap" here. I thought the synopsis of this book sounded good. it opened pretty well. We're in a universe where there seems to be a sort of resurgence of the British Empire into space fueled by private enterprise rather than government money. Sadly it went off the rails and became rather ludicrous. It took several science fiction/science fantasy main-stays and lumped them all into a kind of odd soup of silliness. I'm sure that everybody won't agree with I feel like I should say something like, "oh crap" here. I thought the synopsis of this book sounded good. it opened pretty well. We're in a universe where there seems to be a sort of resurgence of the British Empire into space fueled by private enterprise rather than government money. Sadly it went off the rails and became rather ludicrous. It took several science fiction/science fantasy main-stays and lumped them all into a kind of odd soup of silliness. I'm sure that everybody won't agree with me here but after a while I gave up and returned the book to Audible. So...decide for yourself, but not for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stefan

    This is a great novel-length adaptation of the original The Empress of Mars novella. Most of the book is set in "The Empress of Mars", the only bar on the young Mars colony. Mary Griffith barely manages to keep the bar solvent, helped by her three daughters and a number of outcasts (some of whom you'll be familiar with if you've read Baker's short story in The New Space Opera). Kage Baker really shows off her trademark wit and easy-flowing style in this funny and at times moving story. In the nov This is a great novel-length adaptation of the original The Empress of Mars novella. Most of the book is set in "The Empress of Mars", the only bar on the young Mars colony. Mary Griffith barely manages to keep the bar solvent, helped by her three daughters and a number of outcasts (some of whom you'll be familiar with if you've read Baker's short story in The New Space Opera). Kage Baker really shows off her trademark wit and easy-flowing style in this funny and at times moving story. In the novella, there were some subtle links to Kage Baker's main Company series. The links are much clearer in the novel-length version, including the appearance of two Company operatives and a strong link to one of the main plot lines of the series. If you've read Baker's Company books, I'd call this one a must-read - you will definitely enjoy this book. If you're not familiar with the series yet, it's actually not a bad place to start because it stands outside of the main plot, but I'd still recommend to start with In the Garden of Iden.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    Mary Griffith came to Mars to be a fancy-pants scientist, but when her research looked less than lucrative, the British Arean Company fired her, leaving her stranded on the desolate rock. Luckily, Mary had an indomitable spirit, three beautiful daughters, and knew how to make beer. These assets in hand, she rapidly became the proprietess of the most successful (and only) bar on Mars. But the rulers of Mars are less than pleased with her success, and she'll need every bit of her wit to survive... Mary Griffith came to Mars to be a fancy-pants scientist, but when her research looked less than lucrative, the British Arean Company fired her, leaving her stranded on the desolate rock. Luckily, Mary had an indomitable spirit, three beautiful daughters, and knew how to make beer. These assets in hand, she rapidly became the proprietess of the most successful (and only) bar on Mars. But the rulers of Mars are less than pleased with her success, and she'll need every bit of her wit to survive... Really excellent story, with memorable characters, a twisting, intricately crafted plot, and a highly enjoyable ending.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I found myself in a bit of an odd spot recently. I was done with everything I needed to read on a deadline, but unwilling to purchase anything new until Audible had run its post-Thanksgiving sale, so I pulled out my list of unread audiobooks, and found this toward the bottom, purchased in the 2013 Audible post-Thanksgiving sale (I've now read 9/13, putting me at about 70% for 2013's sale, which percentage wise is better than 2014 at 2/3). It's too bad that I put this off for as long as I did. It I found myself in a bit of an odd spot recently. I was done with everything I needed to read on a deadline, but unwilling to purchase anything new until Audible had run its post-Thanksgiving sale, so I pulled out my list of unread audiobooks, and found this toward the bottom, purchased in the 2013 Audible post-Thanksgiving sale (I've now read 9/13, putting me at about 70% for 2013's sale, which percentage wise is better than 2014 at 2/3). It's too bad that I put this off for as long as I did. It's a great piece of entertainment. It's a times a little silly, but all in all it's a fun story and alternate take on Mars colonization. Sometimes the back and forth between the settlers and the overbearing company were a bit much, but all in all it was a rollicking good time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Strachan

    I loved the storytelling style in The Empress of Mars. And who doesn't love a band of eccentric misfits making their own very unique survival on Mars, after being stranded by the nasty corporation. The people who populated Baker's Mars were the perfect foil to introduce the subtle and not-so-subtle comments on social mores, politics, gender and religion to name a few of the topics they covered. And I really loved the Empress herself (or one of them) Mary Griffith is the epitome of a survivor, a ma I loved the storytelling style in The Empress of Mars. And who doesn't love a band of eccentric misfits making their own very unique survival on Mars, after being stranded by the nasty corporation. The people who populated Baker's Mars were the perfect foil to introduce the subtle and not-so-subtle comments on social mores, politics, gender and religion to name a few of the topics they covered. And I really loved the Empress herself (or one of them) Mary Griffith is the epitome of a survivor, a matriach, and an entrepreneur to name a few of her skills. Baker paints the characters effortlessly and her world building skills are fantastic. Great sci-fi.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Oops I thought I already reviewed this but I guess not. So here are my thoughts: I haven't read a whole lot of books set on Mars and I thought it was fun. Other than the excessive use of the phrase "sotto voce" I liked the writing style. I liked that it was completely character-driven even though it was on Mars. The one thing that really bugged me was that way too much of the plot was about business owners/government officials/religious leaders trying to screw each other over. Calm down ev (3.5) Oops I thought I already reviewed this but I guess not. So here are my thoughts: I haven't read a whole lot of books set on Mars and I thought it was fun. Other than the excessive use of the phrase "sotto voce" I liked the writing style. I liked that it was completely character-driven even though it was on Mars. The one thing that really bugged me was that way too much of the plot was about business owners/government officials/religious leaders trying to screw each other over. Calm down everybody! We're all just on Mars doing the best we can!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Phoenixfalls

    This is a glorious book, Baker at the top of her form. It is indeed a "rollicking" adventure, full of high-jinx and one-upmanship, but more than that it is an ode to the pioneering spirit in general and the Old West in particular. It is what Joss Whedon's Firefly was at its best, full of broadly-drawn but charismatic characters scrapping together the sort of life no longer allowed in more "civilized" parts of the galaxy. There is a gold rush of sorts, and a cattle stampede, and skeezy nefarious This is a glorious book, Baker at the top of her form. It is indeed a "rollicking" adventure, full of high-jinx and one-upmanship, but more than that it is an ode to the pioneering spirit in general and the Old West in particular. It is what Joss Whedon's Firefly was at its best, full of broadly-drawn but charismatic characters scrapping together the sort of life no longer allowed in more "civilized" parts of the galaxy. There is a gold rush of sorts, and a cattle stampede, and skeezy nefarious types looking to balk our heroes at every turn; there is also corporate espionage, religious intolerance, and some major technical obstacles to overcome in the still largely un-terraformed landscape; but mostly there is just a group of misfits bands together with ingenuity, stubbornness, and a judicious application of force to forge a kinder -- but much less gentle -- society in the wilderness. For longtime readers of the Company novels some familiar faces appear -- Eliphal and Joseph, though Joseph is going by another name -- and the hand of the Company is clear in everything that occurs; but that backstory is largely opaque to the newcomer to the series, so this novel does read well as a stand alone. A newcomer might find some of the implications about our future a little peculiar, but rest assured that any strangeness is explained in the larger series, and it's really not the point of this novel anyway. This is not science fiction with any particular scientific or political or philosophical bone to pick; it's pure, unadulterated fun, much like the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels that the colonists lovingly pay homage to, except with less problematic gender and race relations and a veneer of scientific plausibility. (Baker does manage to keep the canals though.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    This is a fun book, set in the universe of "The Company", but it works well as a standalone novel. It's an expansion of Baker's novella of the same name. The story takes place on Mars, obviously, in the 23rd century. There's a small group of bright, eccentric pioneers who more or less got stuck there when the corporation that sponsored the original settlement decided that Mars was an unprofitable venture. The remnants are scraping by, making the best of things, passing time, etc., until a new dis This is a fun book, set in the universe of "The Company", but it works well as a standalone novel. It's an expansion of Baker's novella of the same name. The story takes place on Mars, obviously, in the 23rd century. There's a small group of bright, eccentric pioneers who more or less got stuck there when the corporation that sponsored the original settlement decided that Mars was an unprofitable venture. The remnants are scraping by, making the best of things, passing time, etc., until a new discovery renews Earthly interest in the Red Planet. Baker's prose is quirky and amusing, and this is a quick read. Fans of Mars fiction will enjoy the pervasively pinkish setting, and fans of The Company will pick up on the presence of a couple of Operatives who are subtly steering events. I never really got the point of the character called "the Heretic", but then I haven't read all of The Company novels, so possibly it's a reference I'm missing. I followed this book with Baker's short story Maelstrom, which can be found online. It features many of the same characters.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    A science-fiction book about a human colony on Mars. There are no aliens. It was written in that kind of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi way. That means the characters were not fully fleshed out, more like eccentric caricatures made for our amusement. Of course, the hardships aren't too threatening and everything works out just fine for everyone in the end. You never feel like anyone is in real danger. Like a said, more a fun play than actual characters with actual dialogue and relationships. A science-fiction book about a human colony on Mars. There are no aliens. It was written in that kind of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi way. That means the characters were not fully fleshed out, more like eccentric caricatures made for our amusement. Of course, the hardships aren't too threatening and everything works out just fine for everyone in the end. You never feel like anyone is in real danger. Like a said, more a fun play than actual characters with actual dialogue and relationships.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Einar Nielsen

    I liked this book although it could have ended a few pages earlier than it did. I was not surprised to discover that it had first been a novella as the book nearly has two ends. The first one deals with the main antagonist and the second just did not fit in my opinion. That being sad it did put a great spin on the settler tale by setting it on mars and drawing comparisons with the old west. It is a short story and I can recommend it for those who like Sci-Fi.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Nelson

    I just love Kage Baker. Vivid, clear, inventive, with Dickensian characters and a twisty-turny plot. Could not put it down. There's a tiny hint of the world that most of her books have been set it, but it doesn't feel overwhelmed by those plots and themes; it stands entirely on its own without any need to know that stuff. Big thumbs up. I just love Kage Baker. Vivid, clear, inventive, with Dickensian characters and a twisty-turny plot. Could not put it down. There's a tiny hint of the world that most of her books have been set it, but it doesn't feel overwhelmed by those plots and themes; it stands entirely on its own without any need to know that stuff. Big thumbs up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim Mcclanahan

    Another stellar Kage Baker story. Her characters and scenarios are uniformly excellent and imaginative. In this case, the palace intrigue and human interactions of the varied and diverse people involved in this tale of Martian colonization and erstwhile Terraforming efforts is fascinating and worthy of a read by anyone, irrespective of their genre preferences.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    Substantially expands and improves the novella. The characters are strong enough for this story of the founding of Mars Two to be a stand alone. Those who have read The Company series will know the colony's fate, which gives the novel a sad weight that I imagine it lacks for newcomers. Substantially expands and improves the novella. The characters are strong enough for this story of the founding of Mars Two to be a stand alone. Those who have read The Company series will know the colony's fate, which gives the novel a sad weight that I imagine it lacks for newcomers.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rita Marie

    This book was apparently adapted from a novella, so that explains the kind of herky-jerky feel it has. Although not Kage Baker's best book ever, it's still pretty darn good -- outstanding writing, unusual characters, and exciting happenings. This book was apparently adapted from a novella, so that explains the kind of herky-jerky feel it has. Although not Kage Baker's best book ever, it's still pretty darn good -- outstanding writing, unusual characters, and exciting happenings.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    Baker always exceeds my expectations. Her books are clever, funny, and full of heart. Thoroughly enjoyable. I can't wait to read the rest of the books set in this world. Baker always exceeds my expectations. Her books are clever, funny, and full of heart. Thoroughly enjoyable. I can't wait to read the rest of the books set in this world.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aphelia

    I thought I had read the The Empress of Mars: A Novella, which is the basis for this book, but I misremembered; I had actually read the short story Maelstrom in The New Space Opera (and loved it)! Although technically a part of her excellent and woefully underappreciated Company series, this book is a great standalone - above all else, it is laugh-out-loud funny! Kage Baker always has humour underpinning her more serious stories, but in this novel, the humour is front and center, to great effect. I thought I had read the The Empress of Mars: A Novella, which is the basis for this book, but I misremembered; I had actually read the short story Maelstrom in The New Space Opera (and loved it)! Although technically a part of her excellent and woefully underappreciated Company series, this book is a great standalone - above all else, it is laugh-out-loud funny! Kage Baker always has humour underpinning her more serious stories, but in this novel, the humour is front and center, to great effect. Wacky, wonderful and occasionally wise, it's a comic space opera set on a planet instead of a starship. Sometime in the future, the British establish a colony on Mars - which they call Ares, to seem more classically elite - after their wildly successful settlement of the Moon (which they call Luna, for the same reason). But the very atmosphere works against them, the climate is inhospitable even with life supports, and as costs mount and British Arean Company shareholders bail, it is more or less abandoned, with a token and poorly manned BAC office to provide oversight. The problem is that most of the highly intelligent scientists brought up to help terraform the planet are abandoned too, unable to afford the ride back home. And, since in the future intelligent thought is a crime, many of them have come from Hospitals, where they had been kept since they failed rehabilitation. So a large cast of eccentrics are left to their own devices, to get on with it the best way that they can, hobbled at every turn by the harshness of the environment and the petty bureaucracy of the BAC. Mary Griffith, a formidable botanist and a lady of a certain age, runs The Empress, the planet's only pub. This is mostly her story, as she fights against the vagaries of demigod BAC clerks, Political Forces, and the Universe At Large to keep her pub open and her oddball adopted family safe. She doesn't believe in doing the easy thing and refuses to give up the home she has created. For a careful reader who is familiar with The Company, Dr. Zeus and Jovian Systems both have a part to play, manipulating things behind the scenes, as always. But above all, this is an entertaining, rollicking read, full of farcical hijinks and Baker's characteristic appreciation for the mankind, despite all its foibles, follies and flaws.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    Barely a 3. I expected to like this a lot more than I did. I just could not get interested in it until midway and probably would have quit sooner if I had not been reading it for my SF group. The novel was created from a novella that won the Theodore Sturgeon award and was nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula, so maybe it was better in the shorter form . The characters were quirky misfits pioneering the settlement of Mars and trying to keep from being oppressed by bad big business and a weird Barely a 3. I expected to like this a lot more than I did. I just could not get interested in it until midway and probably would have quit sooner if I had not been reading it for my SF group. The novel was created from a novella that won the Theodore Sturgeon award and was nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula, so maybe it was better in the shorter form . The characters were quirky misfits pioneering the settlement of Mars and trying to keep from being oppressed by bad big business and a weird goddess-centered religion that seems to have taken over much of Earth. One character in particular, called The Heretic, left me completely cold. I realize that the only character I really sympathized with was the brilliant autistic son of the main character's love interest. I kinda think some of the tone was supposed to be light, but if so it did not work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Jenné

    I don't know how to describe this book—it's not like anything else I've read, which is always a plus. It's mainly about outcasts and misfits, scraping together a living on Mars, in the shadow of an evil corporation. So as far as that goes, not so unusual...I guess what gets me is the voice and the characters. They're Catholics, or pagans, or Tibetans, or autistic, and they feel like exactly what they are. Not many books have two separate autistic characters, well portrayed. Not many books have p I don't know how to describe this book—it's not like anything else I've read, which is always a plus. It's mainly about outcasts and misfits, scraping together a living on Mars, in the shadow of an evil corporation. So as far as that goes, not so unusual...I guess what gets me is the voice and the characters. They're Catholics, or pagans, or Tibetans, or autistic, and they feel like exactly what they are. Not many books have two separate autistic characters, well portrayed. Not many books have protagonists who are older women. It feels like the wild west, or Alaska, or any other frontier, but very much its own thing too.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl struggles to catch up

    Stands alone just fine. Fun. But thrilling, too. Unlike another reviewer, I *did* feel as if the dangers were all too real. Now, that may be because I'm reading it during the Feb. 2021 midwestern deepfreeze, in which we're dealing with frozen pipes, hazardous travels, etc., and fearing tripled utility bills. I shiver in sympathy with these characters. https://doctorzeus.co/2011/06/18/june... Stands alone just fine. Fun. But thrilling, too. Unlike another reviewer, I *did* feel as if the dangers were all too real. Now, that may be because I'm reading it during the Feb. 2021 midwestern deepfreeze, in which we're dealing with frozen pipes, hazardous travels, etc., and fearing tripled utility bills. I shiver in sympathy with these characters. https://doctorzeus.co/2011/06/18/june...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann Tonks

    I'm not a regular science fiction reader, but I found this book charming - and I don't think that's a word I've ever used about sci-fi literature in the past. With a feisty middle aged bar-owning heroine, there's a wild west feel to it but with a distinctly feminist feel to it. A truly imaginative piece of story telling. I'm not a regular science fiction reader, but I found this book charming - and I don't think that's a word I've ever used about sci-fi literature in the past. With a feisty middle aged bar-owning heroine, there's a wild west feel to it but with a distinctly feminist feel to it. A truly imaginative piece of story telling.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amanda (awesome)

    Kage Baker is so goddamn consistent in her awesomeness. I've read books by her that were set in Elizabethan England, uncolonized California and now Mars and each setting has been so well realized and tonally different that it's hard to believe the same person wrote them. If you have any interest in history or science fiction, I highly recommend giving her a chance. Kage Baker is so goddamn consistent in her awesomeness. I've read books by her that were set in Elizabethan England, uncolonized California and now Mars and each setting has been so well realized and tonally different that it's hard to believe the same person wrote them. If you have any interest in history or science fiction, I highly recommend giving her a chance.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Hilarious and fun. The narrator for the audiobook did a fantastic job for all the characters and their varied accents. The only drawback is that everything always seems to work out for the good guys fairly easily so while it's fun, I never got really invested into what was going to happen. It's a great light, happy read though. I'll definitely check out the rest of Kage Baker's work. Hilarious and fun. The narrator for the audiobook did a fantastic job for all the characters and their varied accents. The only drawback is that everything always seems to work out for the good guys fairly easily so while it's fun, I never got really invested into what was going to happen. It's a great light, happy read though. I'll definitely check out the rest of Kage Baker's work.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom Loock

    A 'proper hard-SF' novel by the wonderful Kage Baker. Though is very loosely connected to the Company-series by one implied event (and one minor character) it can be read as a standalone novel - and should be read by anyone who likes novels that take place on Mars. I found it very credible and atmospherically outstanding. Highly recommended. A 'proper hard-SF' novel by the wonderful Kage Baker. Though is very loosely connected to the Company-series by one implied event (and one minor character) it can be read as a standalone novel - and should be read by anyone who likes novels that take place on Mars. I found it very credible and atmospherically outstanding. Highly recommended.

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