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Moving Mars ()

In a book that starts quickly then settles in for a long buildup before finishing with a rush, Greg Bear tells the story of the political tensions that develop between an Earth that seeks unity and its recalcitrant young colony on Mars.  The narrator, Casseia Majumdar had dreamed of an independent Mars since participating in a student rebellion in 2171.  Her quest led her into politics and eventually to a momentous decision when the final confrontation with Earth came.  Meanwhile, her one time lover, Charles Franklin, had an intuition that the universe is basically a matrix of information and that by tweaking the flow of data we might be able to alter reality.  It is his work that scares Earth enough to force it to act.  Together the two, quite literally, change the course of Mars.

Though the novel could use an aggressive trimming and the setting seems not to have much depth to it, what makes the book so compelling is that Mr. Bear in some ways really just replays the core dilemmas of Western Civilization in outer space, particularly the competing desires for freedom or security.  Earth has become a place where people utilize mind and body enhancements, where they eagerly embrace psychological therapies, and where the aversion to conflict and the impulse towards homogeneity is so great that people link their minds together and/or link up with computers (thinkers).  Mars is far more individualistic and natural and resistant to this dull sameness.  At one point, on a trip to Earth to negotiate a treaty, Casseia has the following "discussion" with a thinker named alice (after Alice in Wonderland) :

    "Eventually, human groups and thinkers could be so integrated as to be indistinguishable.

    At that point, such a society exceeds my modeling ability," Alice concluded.

    "Group mind," I said sardonically. "I don't want to be there when that happens."

    "It would be intriguing," Alice said. "There would always remain the choice to simulate isolation as an individual."

    "But then you'd be lonely," I said, with a sudden hitch in my voice.  Perversely, I yearned for some sort of connection with agreement and
    certainty--to truly belong to a larger truth, a greater, unified effort.  My Martian upbringing, my youth and personality, kept me isolated
    and in constant longing.  I deeply wished to belong to a just and higher cause, to have people--friends--who understood me.  To not be lonely.
    In a few clumsy, halting sentences, I expressed this to Alice as if she were a confidant and not an examiner.

    "You understand the urge," Alice told me. [...]

    "The wish to belong to something greater is an historical force, recognized, sometimes fought against, but regarded by many as inevitable."


It may be that the degree to which you enjoy the book is determined by just how scary you find the specter of such "belonging".  But the insight here is excellent.  It's the divide we see in our literature, from E. M. Forster's "Only connect..." on the one side to Huck Finn's dream of "lighting out for the Territory" on the other.  If you're pro-Territory, you'll like the book.


Grade: (B+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Greg Bear - Bibliography Summary (SF Site)
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Moving Mars
    -INTERVIEW : Greg Bear Interview (SF Site, Feb 2000)
    -INTERVIEW : A Conversation With Greg Bear (Greg Knollenberg, December 1999, Writers Write)
    -INTERVIEW : Keep this Frequency Clear - An interview with Greg Bear (Fire and Water)
    -INTERVIEW: with Greg Bear (scifidimensions)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT : Greg Bear  July 23, 1997 ( Greg Bear Fan Club
    -ARCHIVES : "greg bear" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Moving Mars (Kathleen Ann Goonan)
    -REVIEW : of Moving Mars (Ron Vincent)
    -REVIEW : of Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear (L.J. Davis, January 2002, Harper's Magazine)
    -REVIEW : of Darwin's Radio (Mike Pickens, Book Browser)
    -REVIEW : of Vitals (Gerald Jonas, NY Times Book Review)
    -AWARD : 1994 Nebula Award for Moving Mars

    -Mars Exploration (NASA)
    -REVIEW : of Mapping Mars: science, imagination and the birth of a world by Oliver Morton (Jon Turney, Independent uk)