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Space writers holiday. When a celebrated science fiction writer takes to space on his first trip to Mars, he's sure to be in for some heckling from the spaceship crew. But Martin Gibson, man about space, takes it all in his stride. That is, until he lands on the red planet. Once there the intrepid author causes one problem after another as he stumbles upon Mars's most care Space writers holiday. When a celebrated science fiction writer takes to space on his first trip to Mars, he's sure to be in for some heckling from the spaceship crew. But Martin Gibson, man about space, takes it all in his stride. That is, until he lands on the red planet. Once there the intrepid author causes one problem after another as he stumbles upon Mars's most carefully hidden secrets and threatens the future of an entire planet!


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Space writers holiday. When a celebrated science fiction writer takes to space on his first trip to Mars, he's sure to be in for some heckling from the spaceship crew. But Martin Gibson, man about space, takes it all in his stride. That is, until he lands on the red planet. Once there the intrepid author causes one problem after another as he stumbles upon Mars's most care Space writers holiday. When a celebrated science fiction writer takes to space on his first trip to Mars, he's sure to be in for some heckling from the spaceship crew. But Martin Gibson, man about space, takes it all in his stride. That is, until he lands on the red planet. Once there the intrepid author causes one problem after another as he stumbles upon Mars's most carefully hidden secrets and threatens the future of an entire planet!

30 review for The Sands of Mars

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Jandrok

    We will get the obvious stuff out of the way first. “The Sands of Mars” was Arthur C. Clarke’s first foray into the science-fiction novel format after publishing a series of successful short stories. First published in 1951, it is a somewhat unusual offering within the greater Clarke canon, for reasons which we shall discuss in this review later. Now we can argue all day as to the dates of what constitutes the true “Golden Age of Science-Fiction,” but in my mind this book and quite a few of the We will get the obvious stuff out of the way first. “The Sands of Mars” was Arthur C. Clarke’s first foray into the science-fiction novel format after publishing a series of successful short stories. First published in 1951, it is a somewhat unusual offering within the greater Clarke canon, for reasons which we shall discuss in this review later. Now we can argue all day as to the dates of what constitutes the true “Golden Age of Science-Fiction,” but in my mind this book and quite a few of the others published in the early 1950s still fall within that nomenclature. Whatever the case, “The Sands of Mars” is an excellent novel of space-age adventure, part travelogue, part soap opera, and part love letter to the act of discovery and exploration as essential qualities of what makes us human. The plot is as straightforward as you will ever get. Science-Fiction author Martin Gibson (a very obvious stand-in for Clarke himself) is traveling to the colonies of Mars on board the newest commercial space cruiser Aries. As it is the Arie’s shakedown cruise, Gibson is the only passenger, accompanied only by the small crew of the gigantic spacecraft. There are a few comic moments when Gibson has issues adjusting to the reality of weightless travel, but he quickly figures things out and he and the crew begin to bond over the course of their months long voyage. There are a few on board adventures to be had, including the interception of a vital experimental medicine necessary to combat what the colonists are calling “Martian fever.” Gibson arrives on Mars having made friends with one of the junior members of the crew, Jimmy Spencer, who has an unusual personal tie to Gibson. Gibson soon settles into his role of intrepid travel explorer and reporter, sending missives back to Earth on a regular basis. The Mars colony itself is small, and contained within clear domes that have been terraformed to sustain human life. Gibson soon begins to get a feel for the colony, and manages to get himself into a scrape or two along the way. He finds a mysterious outpost during one of his travels in the Mars “outback.” He then seizes an opportunity to travel to one of the outlying cities on Mars, but the plane that he is flying on runs into a massive dust storm and crash lands. It is here where the story begins to take a turn towards adventure and mystery, as Gibson and his mates from the downed plane soon discover a new species of plant life on Mars, as well as a small colony of “Martians,” a reasonably intelligent animal species that sort of resembles kangaroos. Gibson ends up taking a sample of each new life form back to Port Lowell, the main city on Mars. He names his new pet “Squeak” in honor of the sound that it most often vocalizes. Along the way, Gibson finds himself drawn to the Martian colony, and he begins to think in long-term plans. But there are many unanswered questions. What is the nature of the odd outpost that he discovered earlier, and how does it tie into the new plant that he discovered? Are “Squeak” and his marsupial companions the only remaining examples of animal life left on Mars? What is the nature of “Project Dawn,” a much-whispered about but never revealed plot thought to be covertly run by the Mars Administration? What exactly is the relationship between Gibson and Jimmy? What secrets does Warren Hadfield, the gruff Chief Executive of Mars Administration hide? Will Gibson’s immersion into Martian culture cause him to “switch allegiances” and commit himself fully to the colonist’s causes? Don’t worry, all of these questions and more will be deftly answered by the end of the novel, but you will get no more spoilers from me. I’ll state for the record right here that “The Sands of Mars” contains some of Clarke’s most personable writing. Often criticized for his lack of characterization, Clarke paints some pretty deep people in this book. There are times when it almost feels like a soap opera in space as he traces all of the relationships down to their logical ends. The Gibson character mirrors Clarke’s own life to some degree, even down to the failed relationship with a woman in college that may explain the nature of his relationship to Jimmy. Clarke himself had a short marriage to a woman, and remained a bachelor for the rest of his life thereafter. Fortunately there is little in the way of sexuality in “The Sands of Mars,” so we can leave all of the “other” speculations behind and focus on the adventure and fun to be had as the book comes to its satisfying climax. What Clarke IS most often known for is his keen grasp on hard science-fiction ideas and his uncanny ability to forecast future technologies and societal trends. He’s a bit off base here, but not too far if you consider what we actually knew about Mars back in 1951. This is a far cry from H. G. Wells or Edgar Rice Burroughs. You will find no vicious Martian land rovers spouting deadly fire, nor will you discover scantily clad alien princesses idling lazily as heroes draw swords and heave their massive thews. No, what you get in “The Sands of Mars” is a reasonable portrait of interplanetary travel as it might have existed in the future, along with a bevy of other interesting technical details that hit or miss the mark in various ways. Clarke was certainly not short on ideas. And you can even see the beginnings of what would eventually turn Clarke from a “good” science-fiction writer into one of the all-time greats, a concept that I like to call “The Big Idea.” A lot of Arthur C. Clarke’s later works would enter into Big Idea territory. The transformation of the entire human race in “Childhood’s End.” The senses-shattering journey into the farthest reaches of the galaxy with a side shot of the transformation of the entire human race in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The monumental first contact with an alien artifact in “Rendezvous With Rama.” These are the books that Clarke is best known for, and while “The Sands of Mars” harbors no such aspirations, you can still see the seed of Clarke’s grand ambition on display here. Personally, I loved this book. I’m not going to give it five stars as it never ramps itself up to anything of a major status. But I liked the cast of characters. I liked Clarke’s happy-go-lucky sort of British pluck that he infuses the entire story with. I didn’t mind that the whole thing read like a 1950s science-fiction travelogue crossed with a soap opera of epic proportions. At the end of the day the book just made me feel GOOD. “The Sands of Mars” is a prime reason why I enjoy Golden Age science-fiction so much. The idea that the universe was ours to explore, the grand scale, the epic notion that human beings could work together to achieve massive and far-reaching goals, the sheer OPTIMISM of the whole thing. Arthur C. Clarke and a number of other authors envisioned a world where anything was possible, and that sort of enthusiasm wasn’t lost on an entire generation of people who would eventually come together and place the footprints of human beings upon the moon. In short, “The Sands of Mars” is a tidy, fun read that never gets too far off of its path and will leave you feeling satisfied and happy after you have turned the last page. It’s a short step up from some of the “juvenile” fiction that Robert Heinlein was writing around the same time, and you could easily fit this book into the “YA” category today. Highly recommended for any Arthur C. Clarke fan and/or any fan of Golden Age science-fiction.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    I am attracted to Science Fiction from the first half of the twentieth century. I like the cover art from the paperbacks; I like the retro feel from the stories too. If you like books based primarily on world building, then you will enjoy this book. If you depend more on a story-line with an arc and characters that are well-developed, this story may disappoint. Martin Gibson is a writer and he has been selected to fly on a spaceship to Mars and send back news to Earth. Earth wants to know if the e I am attracted to Science Fiction from the first half of the twentieth century. I like the cover art from the paperbacks; I like the retro feel from the stories too. If you like books based primarily on world building, then you will enjoy this book. If you depend more on a story-line with an arc and characters that are well-developed, this story may disappoint. Martin Gibson is a writer and he has been selected to fly on a spaceship to Mars and send back news to Earth. Earth wants to know if the efforts and financial expense to colonize the planet is worth continuing. Mars hopes that his reports will encourage their home planet to continue their support. The first half of the book takes place on the ship where Gibson learns his way around and gets to know the astronauts. Each astronaut has a strong distinctive character and I am sorry that they did not play a larger role in the story. As soon as the ship lands on Mars, they all but disappear and the story shifts to Gibson's observations of the land he sees and the work the colonists have done to make it inhabitable for humans. Maybe this would have been interesting if it was non fiction, but just reading one person's idea of what living on another planet would be like is not my cup of tea, but other readers might like it. For me it felt like reading a text book on ecology. There are moments of tension, but they are brief. Mostly it's comparable to a mechanical Disney ride where one sits and observes the scenery while your cart takes you around the different "lands". If you're a Six Flags type of person, you might go for something with a little more suspense.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Arnis

    https://poseidons99.wordpress.com/201... https://poseidons99.wordpress.com/201...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anders Blixt

    British-Lankese author Arthur C Clarke was one of the titans of science fiction when I was young in the 1970s, together with Americans Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. As I see it, Clarke was at his best from the late 1940s to the end of the 1960s, a period during which he for instance wrote the famous short-stories “The Sentinel” and “The Nine Billion Names of God”. Around 1950, he wrote The Sands of Mars, a sand-in-the-spacesuit novel about one man’s exploration of Mars and of himself, a stor British-Lankese author Arthur C Clarke was one of the titans of science fiction when I was young in the 1970s, together with Americans Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. As I see it, Clarke was at his best from the late 1940s to the end of the 1960s, a period during which he for instance wrote the famous short-stories “The Sentinel” and “The Nine Billion Names of God”. Around 1950, he wrote The Sands of Mars, a sand-in-the-spacesuit novel about one man’s exploration of Mars and of himself, a story of growth and transformation, of becoming an adult and responsible individual. Clarke possessed a talent I have come to like more and more with advancing age, the ability to write an interesting yarn without introducing violent conflicts or bad-guy characters. The Sands of Mars is a prime example: it deals with saving lives (futuristic medicine), making deserts bloom (well, sort of), and the constructive handling an old mess (no spoiler here). The main character, a science fiction author named Martin Gibson, grows in a credible manner from being immature and egocentric to assuming great responsibility. I found the novel in a bargain bookshop in my hometown Gothenburg in the late 1970s and it has remained in my bookshelf ever since. I have read it so many times that I can summarize it “on the run”. At the time of the purchase, the novel was about 25 years old and its description of Mars had been rendered obsolete by the detailed photo-mapping of the Red Planet by Mariner 9 in 1972. But that did not matter much, because I liked it from the start. Clarke sends the reader to a worn-out Mars covered by rolling deserts without exciting topology. Its carbon-dioxide atmosphere is reasonably thick and its dunes are home only to hardy plants — not a Martian in sight. One of the main themes is the interaction between the colonists and the planet, how people’s mindsets get “martianized” while they are busy making the planet more human-friendly. Another interesting matter that Clarke deals a lot with is the significance of administration and efficient use of scarce resources. Establishing a permanent human presence on Mars is an expensive and time-consuming project and, in order to succeed, it must be managed in a professional and unheroic manner. Therefore production statistics and balance sheets get as important as back-breaking labor. Scientific progress — i.e. in physics, chemistry, and xenobiology — is the underlying key to success and Clarke uses this trope to create suspense: every now and then protagonist Martin Gibson asks himself “What the heck is really going on here?” Does the novel have any weaknesses? The gender roles are antiquated and the story fails the Bechdel test. But that’s what Europe in 1950 looked like. And it is hard to criticize Clarke here, because he does show how working women participate in the colonization of Mars even though they get almost no speaking parts in Martin Gibson’s adventures. From literary standpoint, the prose suffers from occasional Clarke-isms (quasi-philosophical expressions like “the stream of time”, not-so-funny humor, etc) that disrupt its otherwise smooth flow. In the 1950s, the readers must have seen The Sands of Mars as a plausible description of what interplanetary colonization could be like. Today, six decades later, the story’s technology is partially outdated (e.g. Martin Gibson uses a typewriter and carbon-copies; radios have tubes instead of transistors) and partially futuristic (e.g. the well-described nuclear-powered passenger ship by which Gibson travels to Mars). But despite its age, the novel remains a piece of solid craftsmanship because it deals with an issue that always is with us: how to build a better world for our children, be it on Mars or on Earth.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna Lehmicke

    This is the first Arthur C. Clarke novel I've read. I can't compare it to his own later novels, but it is interesting to note the differences between Sci-Fi of the 50s to the genre today. Fax machines on an interstellar spaceship? Hillariously quaint! Turning a moon into a sun? Preposterously convenient! While the character-building was well done, and the few passages that were descriptive of the Mars Clarke was guiding us through were eloquent and picturesque, the book as a whole was fairly sim This is the first Arthur C. Clarke novel I've read. I can't compare it to his own later novels, but it is interesting to note the differences between Sci-Fi of the 50s to the genre today. Fax machines on an interstellar spaceship? Hillariously quaint! Turning a moon into a sun? Preposterously convenient! While the character-building was well done, and the few passages that were descriptive of the Mars Clarke was guiding us through were eloquent and picturesque, the book as a whole was fairly simple and quickly read. There were a couple of surprises that caught the characters off-guard without the reader catching on from the narration, but otherwise the ending was relatively predictable. If it were written today, I would have rated it lower, but since it was a Sci-Fi novel written in a time before we had even landed on OUR moon, I imagine it was pretty advanced for its time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    Martin Gibson is a science fiction writer and he decides to spend his money on a trip to the red planet which is now becoming colonised. Gibson seems lacking in knowledge of space travel and how things work up there and so Jimmy, a young apprentice, is assigned as Gibson's teacher as it were. The two become friends and soon Gibson is accepted as part of the group (at first he is looked down upon, as just another writer of space adventures). He is invited along on a mission across the planet in a Martin Gibson is a science fiction writer and he decides to spend his money on a trip to the red planet which is now becoming colonised. Gibson seems lacking in knowledge of space travel and how things work up there and so Jimmy, a young apprentice, is assigned as Gibson's teacher as it were. The two become friends and soon Gibson is accepted as part of the group (at first he is looked down upon, as just another writer of space adventures). He is invited along on a mission across the planet in a jet and after an accident he discovers something going on and decides to investigate. It seems there are plans afoot that could affect the future of both Earth and Mars. Sands is a great little story but you can really tell its an early Clarke! Apart from Mars's strange (to us) geology, sorry aerology, it was notable for me in using the old form of the word connection, with an x! I think the last time I saw the word 'connexion' was in a Dickens novel! Still, all good stuff with drama (a sandstorm), adventure (young Jimmy being amazed by Mars's aerology) and humour, not to mention a bit of relationship controversy!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tomislav

    second read - 4 April 2012 *** - I last read this 39 years ago. It's hard to believe this 1951 novel was approximately 20 years old then, and approximately 60 years old now. I re-read it now because it was the yahoogroups Hard-SF book of the month for March 2012, and in order to count it in the paperbackswap 2Q2012 SF Challenge as a first novel of a British writer. This could be considered a precursor, set in the same universe, as Clarke's Space Odyssey books. I'm afraid I remembered next to noth second read - 4 April 2012 *** - I last read this 39 years ago. It's hard to believe this 1951 novel was approximately 20 years old then, and approximately 60 years old now. I re-read it now because it was the yahoogroups Hard-SF book of the month for March 2012, and in order to count it in the paperbackswap 2Q2012 SF Challenge as a first novel of a British writer. This could be considered a precursor, set in the same universe, as Clarke's Space Odyssey books. I'm afraid I remembered next to nothing about the novel from my first read. I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, but probably mostly those were feelings of nostalgia for a past era of science fiction. At this point, even though Clarke aimed for a scientifically accurate description of Mars, distancing himself from the misconceptions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, his descriptions seem quaintly optimistic with regards to life on Mars and the Moon. Some aspects of this novel are probably auto-biographical. The one well-developed main character - a science fiction writer - had a single traumatic female relationship in his past. Two years later Clarke himself had a brief and failed marriage. Given what is generally suspected about Arthur C. Clarke's private life, there seems to be a lot left unsaid in this writing. I also noticed that the colonists of Mars included few or no women whose purpose was other than to be the wives and families of the men. This is so unlike the contemporary science fiction vision of Mars colonization, more like a large military base. It could be Clarke's own military background, or possibly an indication of an over-idealized and unrealistic understanding of women. I thought the book was well written for its time, but expect it to be of limited appeal now in the 21st century. first read - December 1973- *** I bought this book in December of my freshman year in college, and read it shortly thereafter.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    I'm having trouble putting this into context. When originally published, what sort of book would sit next to it? Something pulpy and ridiculous? Was this revolutionary in its cold fidelity to hard physics and technological understanding of the time? What would I compare this to? Given Clarke's stringent adherence and reputation, it's tempting to pick at the things he doesn't get right--cigarettes on spaceships, typewriters, administrator-secretaries on Mars, meteorologists on space stations, news I'm having trouble putting this into context. When originally published, what sort of book would sit next to it? Something pulpy and ridiculous? Was this revolutionary in its cold fidelity to hard physics and technological understanding of the time? What would I compare this to? Given Clarke's stringent adherence and reputation, it's tempting to pick at the things he doesn't get right--cigarettes on spaceships, typewriters, administrator-secretaries on Mars, meteorologists on space stations, newspapers in set type--but I later wondered how many of these were deliberate, that suggesting handheld reading/writing/chatting devices with the capacity of several libraries would be a stretch too far for his audience.

  9. 5 out of 5

    S. Naomi Scott

    Before I get into the meat of my review let me get one thing out of the way right now. This book is almost seventy years old, written before we had any real understanding of what Mars was like. We hadn't even managed to get anything into orbit when this book first came out, so there's bound to be a bit of a separation between the science and technology we know now and what this book asserts. Got that? Good. The story follows the adventures of sci-fi writer Martin Gibson as he becomes the first to Before I get into the meat of my review let me get one thing out of the way right now. This book is almost seventy years old, written before we had any real understanding of what Mars was like. We hadn't even managed to get anything into orbit when this book first came out, so there's bound to be a bit of a separation between the science and technology we know now and what this book asserts. Got that? Good. The story follows the adventures of sci-fi writer Martin Gibson as he becomes the first tourist to visit Mars. The book is essentially in two halves; the first half tells us about the journey itself aboard the liner Ares, while the second half deals with Gibson's time on Mars and what he finds there. At its core, this is a story of exploration, but as with so much of Clarke's work there are multiple layers to the narrative, and also in common with what I've read of Clarke's work to date this is one hell of a readable story. With the first half being set on the liner Ares we get to learn a lot about the operation of the ship and her crew. Even with a limited knowledge of spaceflight and interplanetary travel Clarke is able to present a believable and enlightening narrative, which can be a little dry at times but rarely fails to entertain. We're amused by Gibson's first experience of low gravity and freefall, as well as his initial bout of space sickness; we're presented with an awe-inspiring description of the galaxy free of the haze of an atmosphere; we get to share Gibson's first (and only) spacewalk, albeit in a suit that never was. This is Clarke in his element, taking the technical aspects of what was known about space travel at the time and turning them into a fun, enticing story that makes it sound oh so easy. The second half brings us to Mars, via a brief stop-off at Deimos, and it isn't long before the tone of the story changes. Instead of being an exploration of space travel we're now presented with a frontier tale coupled with a subtle, almost invisible, detective story. The colonists of Mars are up to something, keeping secrets, but Gibson doesn't seem all that driven to find out what. Instead, he seems more interested in discovering Mars for himself, trying to get to grips with the colonist spirit. Here Mars is shown to be an inhospitable wasteland with a poisonous CO2 rich atmosphere. The colonists, for the most part, live under domes in the capital city of Port Lowell. There's a brief exploration of the plant life native to the red planet but mainly the second half focuses on the interaction between the various characters and how they deal with the dangers around them. As I mentioned at the top of this review, there's a lot that Clarke gets wrong in here, science and tech wise, but that's okay because this is great book despite that. Yes, it is representative of its time, particularly where gender roles seem to be concerned - the very few female characters mentioned are there as props for the male characters to interact with, while all the important jobs are undertaken by men - but it still has a lot to say about human ingenuity. This is typically optimistic fare from Clarke, and one of those books I'd say anyone genuinely interested in the history of sci-fi should add to their reading list. There's a reason Clarke is considered one of the Grand Masters of science fiction, and this, his first full length novel, goes a long way to show us what that reason is.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vernon

    This has been a difficult novel to rate, partly due to it being Clarke's "first full-length novel," but also that I've found it difficult to keep thoughts of the author's later masterpieces (i.e., The City and the Stars; Childhood's End—certainly two of the greatest works yet produced in the entire realm of Science Fiction) from impinging onto memory as a no doubt unfair comparison.The Sands of Mars is an example of an author not only stretching his imagination into a novel-length statement for This has been a difficult novel to rate, partly due to it being Clarke's "first full-length novel," but also that I've found it difficult to keep thoughts of the author's later masterpieces (i.e., The City and the Stars; Childhood's End—certainly two of the greatest works yet produced in the entire realm of Science Fiction) from impinging onto memory as a no doubt unfair comparison.The Sands of Mars is an example of an author not only stretching his imagination into a novel-length statement for the first time, but also shows his (life-long) fascination with what initial space exploration and colonization might well be like in actuality. The staggering use of imagination present in, for example, The City and the Stars is naturally enough not yet full-blown present, but the underpinings of future expressive growth most definitely are!The novel is a worthy read, and could just as well have been given three stars (something which, judging by the cumulative rating of the novel, many have done—and even higher than three stars); it's just that, for me, I can't get the searing genius of the two above-mentioned works out of mind (and there are others—those simply happen to be my personal favorites—Rendezvous with Rama [NOT THE SEQUELS!] also is resident in the "upper echelon hierarchy"). So, fair or not, in comparison to certain of the later works, The Sands of Mars suffers. More fairly, it's two-and-a-half stars....

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jason Vanhee

    Perfectly serviceable terribly quaint novel about the settlement of Mars in I guess the 1990s? It was Clarke's first novel, written in about 1948 and published in 1951, and Mars has a (thin but far too thick) atmosphere, weird plants, (spoiler) animals, and no mountains at all--we hadn't figured out yet the biggest mountain in the Solar System is there. There's a lot of realism to it though, in that it's not Starry Eyed Space Settlers, but bureaucratic intrusions and officious gentlemen and peop Perfectly serviceable terribly quaint novel about the settlement of Mars in I guess the 1990s? It was Clarke's first novel, written in about 1948 and published in 1951, and Mars has a (thin but far too thick) atmosphere, weird plants, (spoiler) animals, and no mountains at all--we hadn't figured out yet the biggest mountain in the Solar System is there. There's a lot of realism to it though, in that it's not Starry Eyed Space Settlers, but bureaucratic intrusions and officious gentlemen and people finding others obnoxious and nosy and anyway I liked all that part but not really the way it was written, which involves a lot of "Martin didn't realize how important that would turn out to be" which is a style that I don't care for. Not bad, not good, just a book, but one I've owned for like 4 years now without reading so I'm glad I got that out of the way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    K.A. Ashcomb

    This book is wish-fulfillment science fiction about traveling to space and to another planet. And not just anybody's wish, I think the writer's himself. It was the only thing I could think when I read the book. "This is what he dreams when he shut his eyes." To experience space travel and colonize another planet, Mars, as it will be the first planet humans can actually go to and most probably live on. Arthur C. Clarke's dream and love for space are vivid in the detailed description of spacefligh This book is wish-fulfillment science fiction about traveling to space and to another planet. And not just anybody's wish, I think the writer's himself. It was the only thing I could think when I read the book. "This is what he dreams when he shut his eyes." To experience space travel and colonize another planet, Mars, as it will be the first planet humans can actually go to and most probably live on. Arthur C. Clarke's dream and love for space are vivid in the detailed description of spaceflight, the grew, and the feelings of the main character, a science fiction writer Gibson. I'm not sure if you can read this book as a story, (of course, you can,) but something is lost if you expect the normal story arch or heroic quest to space. This is more like an exploration of what it would take to get to Mars and what obstacles and wonders you would experience on the way, and what would you see when standing on the sands of Mars. This book is inspirational and heartwarming, but I understand the complaints that it is not interesting, that it feels like a textbook. I don't mind that. I love when the writer shows his passion for the details. This is something you can expect from Arthur C. Clarke's books, there are always scientific facts backing up his claims, and that, in my opinion, is good sci-fi. But what I mind is that I couldn't get past the feeling that this book was written to the writer himself. That I was just a looker, trying to search meaning why this book should matter to me? After reading the book, I have to conclude the experience was this weird dissonance between inspiration and meaningless.  The Sands of Mars is a scientific poem for space travel. A dream, you can either jump into or watch as it floats by, and feel nothing. It is your choice to join into the emotion behind the words.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    The first Arthur Clarke story I've ever had to read as an historical artifact, as opposed to a simple novel. By his own admission, the story is written prior to the major (and by implication, disappointing) discoveries in the 60s and 70s about the spartan/sterile nature of Mars. The result is almost like reading an alternate universe rendition of the red planet; a final visit to a Mars more recognizable by Ray Bradbury than by authors like Ben Bova. It's both fascinating & deeply weird. On top o The first Arthur Clarke story I've ever had to read as an historical artifact, as opposed to a simple novel. By his own admission, the story is written prior to the major (and by implication, disappointing) discoveries in the 60s and 70s about the spartan/sterile nature of Mars. The result is almost like reading an alternate universe rendition of the red planet; a final visit to a Mars more recognizable by Ray Bradbury than by authors like Ben Bova. It's both fascinating & deeply weird. On top of that, the second act of the novel reads like too much technical manual-meets-soap opera, and isn't a patch on the much more brilliant opening, and the very surprising conclusion. This is definitely the oddest Clarke novel I have read to date, and most of it is held together by the sheer strength of his prose style.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tomer

    {rounded down from 2.5} At times it almost funny and I did appreciate the autobiography elements with some humor on authors of the genre and breaking the fourth page.. nonetheless I just could not attach to the plot and any main events, sorry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Barbie

    What a twist and what an ending.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Roberts

    I am reviewing the hard science fiction novel The Sands Of Mars by Arthur C Clarke which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This is one of his early books written in 1951. The plot is an author is on his way to Mars when his ship, he is flying solo, runs into trouble. He is taken aboard a space freighter and completes his journey to Mars. He is stuck on the freighter for a while and the crew mostly leave him alone and he spends alot of his time reading magazines. There is only a sma I am reviewing the hard science fiction novel The Sands Of Mars by Arthur C Clarke which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This is one of his early books written in 1951. The plot is an author is on his way to Mars when his ship, he is flying solo, runs into trouble. He is taken aboard a space freighter and completes his journey to Mars. He is stuck on the freighter for a while and the crew mostly leave him alone and he spends alot of his time reading magazines. There is only a small crew aboard the freighter, much smaller than on a passenger ship. He meets up with his son who is due to get married & also Mars is having problems getting supplies from Earth & getting a fair price for what they send to Earth. The way around this is to turn Mars into another Earth meaning they need plants etc to turn the atmosphere into something breathable. It's a charming story and does have a happy ending. I think Clarke though has written better stories than this. The story is only around 200 pages so is moderately long. I think A Fall Of Moondust is my favourite story by him. It's also amazing how fertile his imagination was and rather interestingly he wrote a paper about how communication satellites would function and one was finally built and put in orbit a patent for the builder's was refused as Clarke had done all the hard work as far as working out how it would work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lilyn G. | Sci-Fi & Scary |

    I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book as much as I did the first in the trilogy, but... I didn't. For some reason, I struggled to keep my attention on the book for at least the first half. It was mildly interesting, but not enough to keep my focus on it. I didn't really start, I think, to pay attention to what I was reading, until Squeak and the Airweed got involved. The problem that I have with Clarke seems to be that he's a wonderful writer for the FIRST book in a series, and that after tha I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book as much as I did the first in the trilogy, but... I didn't. For some reason, I struggled to keep my attention on the book for at least the first half. It was mildly interesting, but not enough to keep my focus on it. I didn't really start, I think, to pay attention to what I was reading, until Squeak and the Airweed got involved. The problem that I have with Clarke seems to be that he's a wonderful writer for the FIRST book in a series, and that after that, as he tries to add more depth, to flesh out characters more, etc, he seems to struggle, and gives too much attention to these aspects, and less to what he truly excels in - which is the hard sci-fi writing itself. I might read the third book, but can't say I have any great desire to. I would not recommend this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    intrepideddie

    This was probably a good book back when it was published (1951), but it focuses too much on "real" science that is now outdated and/or wrong. Which is funny, because two of the characters in the book have a friendly argument about whether science fiction stories survive the test of time (chapter 5). It starts off as an interesting discussion, but it doesn't go anywhere and is never resolved. And that's sort of the tone of the entire book: it just meanders and never really goes anywhere. No real p This was probably a good book back when it was published (1951), but it focuses too much on "real" science that is now outdated and/or wrong. Which is funny, because two of the characters in the book have a friendly argument about whether science fiction stories survive the test of time (chapter 5). It starts off as an interesting discussion, but it doesn't go anywhere and is never resolved. And that's sort of the tone of the entire book: it just meanders and never really goes anywhere. No real plot, fairly wooden characters, and no real interest to be had. A particularly annoying habit of the author was to allude to other big future events in the characters' lives, but never follow through on the promise of an interesting story. Quite possibly Arthur C. Clarke's worst book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mike Howells

    There's just something about classic 1950s sci-fi that makes you feel excited about the future. Everything is a little over-simplified, from the exobiology to the human psychology, but wouldn't it be great if colonising other planets was this easy? Films like Interstellar (awful) and The Martian (awesome) try to recapture that optimism, but somehow never quite get it. Maybe I'm showing my age but compared to new sci-fi, some of which is seriously depressing, I'll give Mr Clarke 4-5 stars every t There's just something about classic 1950s sci-fi that makes you feel excited about the future. Everything is a little over-simplified, from the exobiology to the human psychology, but wouldn't it be great if colonising other planets was this easy? Films like Interstellar (awful) and The Martian (awesome) try to recapture that optimism, but somehow never quite get it. Maybe I'm showing my age but compared to new sci-fi, some of which is seriously depressing, I'll give Mr Clarke 4-5 stars every time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This is a quaint novel that plods along at its own pace. I like how Clarke hints and makes references to the future Mars that will come to be. This gives the narrative, which is short and rather contained, a feeling of fullness and scale that I really enjoy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul Weiss

    A classic that stands the test of time! The Sands of Mars is a joy - a lightweight, easy-reading, far-sighted hard sci-fi novel that addresses the broad topics of interplanetary travel and colonization, development and terraforming of the hostile extra-terrestrial Martian environment. One could quibble, I suppose, that the science is slightly dated and there were certainly a couple of predictions that have since been proven incorrect but, for my money, the story is made all the more exciting and A classic that stands the test of time! The Sands of Mars is a joy - a lightweight, easy-reading, far-sighted hard sci-fi novel that addresses the broad topics of interplanetary travel and colonization, development and terraforming of the hostile extra-terrestrial Martian environment. One could quibble, I suppose, that the science is slightly dated and there were certainly a couple of predictions that have since been proven incorrect but, for my money, the story is made all the more exciting and amazing for the degree to which it is now, fifty years later, approaching reality and the possibility of achievement! Martin Gibson, a celebrated science fiction writer, has been invited to be the first and only passenger on the maiden voyage of Ares, the first interplanetary vessel that will be devoted to passenger travel. A simple thesis indeed for a marvelous novel - Gibson's job is to report back to earth on the trip and his perceptions of the progress that the first colonists have made in their establishment of a flourishing base on Mars. Unlike Asimov's The Gods Themselves which addresses the philosophical and psychological impact of living in an alien environment on Earth's moon, The Sands of Mars restricts itself almost exclusively to addressing the hard core physical and scientific issues. Not to suggest that makes it less interesting or a weaker novel - that's just the side of the sci-fi coin that turned up when Clarke flipped it, I suppose! There certainly wasn't any shortage of topics - oxygen, air pressure, weather, heat, buildings, local travel (both on the planet and to Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos), interplanetary travel back and forth to Mars, emergency preparedness, government, effective utilization of limited manpower, biology and zoology (or at least Clarke's rather exciting vision of what is possible), communication and more! I also appreciated the fact that, while the science was straightforward and not particularly complex, neither was it dumbed down or patronizing. For example, when Ares first left Earth's orbits to begin the long trip to Mars, it was described as follows: " ... she would pull away out of the orbit in which she was circling and had hitherto spent all her existence, to swing into the long hyperbola that led to Mars." I haven't been a big fan of Arthur C Clarke's other more open-ended esoteric novels such as Against the Fall of Night but I certainly enjoyed this one! Paul Weiss

  22. 5 out of 5

    John

    Clarke's first novel to find publication, in 1951, "The Sands of Mars" naturally seems dated to the reader of 2018. This, however, detracts little from its overall appeal. While Asimov's contemporaneous sociological musing can come off as wooden, Clarke instills in the reader a genuine enthusiasm which bridges the 65-plus-year fact gap in his hard science. In describing the journey of a writer aboard the first passenger ship to humanity's first colony on another planet, Clarke wrestles, with som Clarke's first novel to find publication, in 1951, "The Sands of Mars" naturally seems dated to the reader of 2018. This, however, detracts little from its overall appeal. While Asimov's contemporaneous sociological musing can come off as wooden, Clarke instills in the reader a genuine enthusiasm which bridges the 65-plus-year fact gap in his hard science. In describing the journey of a writer aboard the first passenger ship to humanity's first colony on another planet, Clarke wrestles, with some plausibility, with many of the issues one would expect to arise between the home planet and a far-flung outpost. Set in a period in which the Mars colony is reasonably well-established, but still small, and still working out issues of sustainability, question such as the value to Earth of continued investment are handled deftly and provocatively. One of the great joys of this work is the fact that Clarke's protagonist, Martin Gibson, is not simply a writer, but a notable science fiction writer, and meta-references abound: one can hear Clarke's envy towards Gibson expressed time and time again, an envy he would still harbor even at the end of his long and prolific life. Most of the science, of course, has been debunked ages ago: we know that Mars does have mountains, for example, and that it lacks vegetation, let alone animal life. If read within its historical context, however, these constitute only minor flaws. What is more frustrating is the fact that in the early 1950s Clarke could envision, not unreasonably for the era, the establishment of permanent colonies on other bodies within the solar system within 40 or 50 years. This was the jumping-off point for an author who, in his mid-30s, exhibited a starry-eyed optimism, and who, by his 80s, had been reduced to the stark, dark pessimism of a disillusioned realist. And that is, perhaps, the saddest remnant of Clarke's legacy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Apparently this is Clarke's first "full length" novel - it's still pretty short but longer than a short story. And I wonder if the lead character is a writer because he fell back on the old adage - write what you know. It might have felt safer when embarking on a longer form for the first time. I enjoyed this a lot more than I did Foundation. In part that might be because I forgave the book in advance for being written in 1951, and containing all the societal luggage of the era. I think, however, Apparently this is Clarke's first "full length" novel - it's still pretty short but longer than a short story. And I wonder if the lead character is a writer because he fell back on the old adage - write what you know. It might have felt safer when embarking on a longer form for the first time. I enjoyed this a lot more than I did Foundation. In part that might be because I forgave the book in advance for being written in 1951, and containing all the societal luggage of the era. I think, however, that the larger part of my enjoyment stemmed from the characterisation - these characters didn't annoy me like the ones in Foundation did. In retrospect, Foundation seems shot through with all-knowing smug smart-arses, while the characters in The Sands of Mars felt a lot more real and relatable. Martin (Martian??) Gibson in particular is a classic slightly clueless everyman that is easy for a reader to identify with, and I enjoyed the more individual psychology (in contrast with the civilisation-wide "psychohistory" in Foundation). It doesn't seem entirely fair to compare this book with Foundation so much, given it was written earlier, but these are the only two Clarke novels I've read recently, and it's interesting to think how his writing style changed in between. The Sands of Mars, to me, demonstrates Clarke's genius far more clearly, and I can appreciate why he achieved the stature that he did in the genre with this as an example of, essentially, his first book. There is some incidental amusement stemming from the boast in the blurb that this book portrays Mars realistically, as science knew it to be (in 1951)... complete with native Martian plants, a blue sky, and sufficient atmospheric pressure to allow people to walk around unprotected except for breathing masks. I can forgive that too, though. Definitely recommended.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James Hogan

    This slim novel, published in 1951/1952, was a delightful little read. I think it must have been one of Clarke's earlier novels, as it doesn't feel quite as polished as his later works. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this simple space story. It's a fairly low-energy novel, in that despite the fact that the main character is flying in a space ship to Mars, there is a sense of the routine and commonplace about it. That's intentional, as the plot is based around the idea of this science-fiction author bein This slim novel, published in 1951/1952, was a delightful little read. I think it must have been one of Clarke's earlier novels, as it doesn't feel quite as polished as his later works. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this simple space story. It's a fairly low-energy novel, in that despite the fact that the main character is flying in a space ship to Mars, there is a sense of the routine and commonplace about it. That's intentional, as the plot is based around the idea of this science-fiction author being the first passenger on this new spaceship and one who is going to visit the growing Martian colony and write dispatches back to Earth for popular consumption. Because the author is not an astronaut himself, there is a sense of wonder about the trip (my favourite part was definitely the transit between Earth and Mars!) and I could only imagine myself what it would be like to look with my own eyes upon the stars, unfiltered and blazing bright. The part set on the Mars colony is a little more dull - mostly because the colony itself is thinly sketched by Clarke and the colonists are given little chance to jump off the page. But apart from these negatives, I really did enjoy this book for the stimulus it provided my imagination. To set foot on another planet and gaze off into the far void of space in which Earth is but a speck. To fight for your very survival on a world which is not your own. To dream of a future in which ships hurtle throughout the solar system in twirling patterns of comforting routine. To imagine standing on a moon of Saturn and gazing up into that planet filling half the sky. The wonders of creation dazzle the mind and to read works that make me feel such emotions is something that brings me much joy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    MH

    There's a comment early on in this about how nothing is deader than yesterday's SF, and how it just seems quaint and irrelevant, and it applies to this book (and was probably expected to). While touted as the "scientific" Mars, its pre-spaceflight, so as much of a fantasy as that of Burroughs, only with fewer princesses - and this inevitably undermines the story for modern readers who grew up knowing what its really like. But that said, its not a terrible story, about an SF writer - a thinly-dis There's a comment early on in this about how nothing is deader than yesterday's SF, and how it just seems quaint and irrelevant, and it applies to this book (and was probably expected to). While touted as the "scientific" Mars, its pre-spaceflight, so as much of a fantasy as that of Burroughs, only with fewer princesses - and this inevitably undermines the story for modern readers who grew up knowing what its really like. But that said, its not a terrible story, about an SF writer - a thinly-disguised Clarke, whose best novel is named "Martian Dust" - who goes to Mars on a PR trip (using an atomic rocket, no less), and Things Happen There. There's clear links to other early Clarke - I'm thinking Islands in the Sky - and ideas that get re-used later - notably in 2001: A Space Odyssey (and maybe in Imperial Earth?) And you can see the development of Clarke's vignette writing-style which works so well in his later books. But it is really only of historical interest - the Big Ideas in this are all done better elsewhere. If you want a proper Martian story, read Kim Stanley Robinson instead.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    “So you don’t consider that science-fiction can ever have any permanent literary value?” “I don’t think so. It may sometimes have a social value when it’s written, but to the next generation it must always seem quaint and archaic." Exactly as stated in the prognostication between two characters, or perhaps just simple self-awareness by the author, this novel is quaint and archaic. However, I do feel there is still value and quite enjoy reading older science fiction stories. It gives the reader in “So you don’t consider that science-fiction can ever have any permanent literary value?” “I don’t think so. It may sometimes have a social value when it’s written, but to the next generation it must always seem quaint and archaic." Exactly as stated in the prognostication between two characters, or perhaps just simple self-awareness by the author, this novel is quaint and archaic. However, I do feel there is still value and quite enjoy reading older science fiction stories. It gives the reader insight into the culture of the time. This book was published in 1951. It's about the colonization and fight for independent survival on Mars, presumably in the late 1980s or early 1990s based on context. Clearly our space exploration and technological ability is far from the romanticized hope of the day. It's still a fun novel. The viewpoint is predominantly through one protagonist, a writer from Earth. He's the first civilian invited to a colony of scientists and highly specialized workers in order to observe and report. We follow him from Earth, through space, and into scientific Martian society where he slowly but surely adapts into their mindset. The book focuses heavily on worldbuilding, bringing the reader into this imaginary future. The characters are decent, there are moments of suspense and mystery, but the imagination of a now foregone dream is the drawing appeal. While not the best starting point for new readers to Arthur C. Clarke, fans of older science fiction should enjoy this story for its charming visionary value.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sean Morton

    A classic piece of hard science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke is best remembered as the author of science fiction hit 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Sands of Mars is his debut novel, and follows a famous science fiction author as he lives his own fantasies by travelling to Mars. Once there, he begins to suspect that not is all as it seems on the colony and that something more mysterious is at hand. This was a fun read, it took me a while to get through this at first but it certainly picked up in the secon A classic piece of hard science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke is best remembered as the author of science fiction hit 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Sands of Mars is his debut novel, and follows a famous science fiction author as he lives his own fantasies by travelling to Mars. Once there, he begins to suspect that not is all as it seems on the colony and that something more mysterious is at hand. This was a fun read, it took me a while to get through this at first but it certainly picked up in the second half. Clarke created some interesting and multi-dimensional characters that are fun to follow, and managed to introduce a few clever twists here and there to add intrigue to the story. Like most of his contemporaries of the era, Clarke took a heavy hard science fiction approach. This was evidenced through extensive research that made the fiction more plausible than the Martian romances of earlier authors or the more common science fantasy of today. For me the biggest problem with this story was the pacing, while plenty happened in the latter half the beginning of the story was slow and dragged a fair bit. Something else that is more of an observation than a criticism, I found it amusing that authors of this era could imagine advanced space travel and colonising the solar system, but not things such as digital cameras or personal computers. In the end, a short but fun foray into a bygone age of science fiction literature.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Francisco

    One of Clarke's earliest novels, The Sands of Mars follows a science fiction writer, Gibson, who goes on a trip to Mars to write some newspaper articles and do some research for his work. In the process he kind of ends up being entangled in Mars politics, discovers parts of himself there and essentially "goes native". It's really interesting how so much of 50s science fiction reads so much like Westerns, it's stories about the frontier, building order out of chaos, new societies where there is ve One of Clarke's earliest novels, The Sands of Mars follows a science fiction writer, Gibson, who goes on a trip to Mars to write some newspaper articles and do some research for his work. In the process he kind of ends up being entangled in Mars politics, discovers parts of himself there and essentially "goes native". It's really interesting how so much of 50s science fiction reads so much like Westerns, it's stories about the frontier, building order out of chaos, new societies where there is very little, even when there are aliens involved, which isn't the case here (at least no alien civilization here) the relationships are again similar to those of white people meeting Native Americans, often resulting in genocide or uneasy peace. It seems therefore to make sense that so much science fiction of the time was produced in the US. Clarke is British, however, and you can tell that in certain points. He is writing for the American market which sets much of the frontier adventure tone of the story, but his concerns with family life, emotional drama and existential problems of a writer going through a rough patch creatively, do show a level of social realism which goes beyond simple escapist space adventure. A good start to what would become a stellar career.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karl Kindt

    This is what good science fiction should be. It should be based on realistic what-ifs that matter to humanity and also be peopled with characters that are complex and compelling. I have enjoyed ACC's first three novels more than all the 2001 series books because the 2001 books seem to be people with ideas at the expense of people. This book has the perfect balance. ACC does not just add some human drama to a cool what-if idea. He embeds them as part of the unfolding sci-fi drama. If what happene This is what good science fiction should be. It should be based on realistic what-ifs that matter to humanity and also be peopled with characters that are complex and compelling. I have enjoyed ACC's first three novels more than all the 2001 series books because the 2001 books seem to be people with ideas at the expense of people. This book has the perfect balance. ACC does not just add some human drama to a cool what-if idea. He embeds them as part of the unfolding sci-fi drama. If what happened in this book happened in the real world (the findings on Mars and mankind's changing of it), it would matter to me and there would be people involved very much like ACC has imagined who would be affected by it in just the way he proposes. When people think of sci-fi as being written by scientists about what scientists do, this book is a shining example of how that very convention can work. This book is hopeful and bright and yet realistic in its outlook, yet it faces the very real challenges of the skeptics who question why we bother to explore the universe. It meets that argument's to its face and rejects it with reason and rationale justification.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Debner

    I did not finish this book but knowing the reasons for that should be of use to anyone considering spending their time on this book. First, this book was written in 1951 and if you take that into consideration, it is a remarkably detailed story about life in the first permanent martian colony 10 years in. Interestingly the author has two characters debate whether science fiction will continue to hold value once humanity actual begins to travel in space. The character arguing for lost value appea I did not finish this book but knowing the reasons for that should be of use to anyone considering spending their time on this book. First, this book was written in 1951 and if you take that into consideration, it is a remarkably detailed story about life in the first permanent martian colony 10 years in. Interestingly the author has two characters debate whether science fiction will continue to hold value once humanity actual begins to travel in space. The character arguing for lost value appears to win and this book would bare that out. For example, I stopped reading when the Mars stenography pool became a focus of this book. That pool, in the greatest of 1950s stereotypes, was full of young women whose greatest desire was to get married and start making babies. Bottom line: had I been better prepared for the slow pace and ridiculous 1950s stereotypes I may have enjoyed this as a story about the colonization of Mars. As is, I feel I wasted my time.

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