by Greg Bear
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
I made a comment on Facebook recently concerning the reading, or re-reading, of former award winners, saying in some cases I might need to read an earlier book in a sequence first. I had already started the 1994 Nebula winner Moving Mars, which I had not read before, without realizing it is considered to be part of a series that started with 1990's Queen of Angels. FantasticFiction.com gives that as the series title, whereas Wikipedia calls it the Quantum Logic series. There are also two others in the sequence, one written later but set earlier in the timeline than this one. However, on reading synopses of them I came to the conclusion that while they may be connected, they are mostly stand-alone stories. The first is set on Earth, the second on the Moon, with a continuity of advancing technology, but not for recurring characters. If and when I ever read the others, I'll either incorporate them into this review, or create another page.
2171 is a hundred years after humans set foot on Mars, so that makes it Mars Year 53. The story is written in first-person, and that's one of its faults. Casseia Majumdar's memoir was written many years after the events depicted. It starts when she is 18 (or 10, since she prefers Martian years). She's a student at the University of Mars, Sinai, with an interest in government and politics. The first section is slow to start, hampered by Cassie's passive nature and a preponderance of relationship drama. Martian society and economy revolves around independent Binding Multiples, which began as family groups, then expanded with inter-marriage or individuals choosing to move from one group to another. Each BM focuses on a particular task or technology, with the Majumdar BM specialty being economic analysis and management, which doesn't interest Cassie. She gets caught up in a student revolt, which doesn't amount to much, but it does end with a Council Governor, labeled a statist, leaving the planet and returning to Earth. The majority of Martians are content with the system as is, they don't want a central government, and they want to stay as independent from Earth as possible. Later events propel them toward a more unified Mars, which either is or is not successful, depending on perspective.
I rated this only 3 stars on Goodreads. Certain parts would warrant a higher rating, but overall I think that's a fair judgment. Some very well written sequences, exciting action and intriguing ideas, mostly relating to artificial intelligence and nano-technology. Other parts are rambling and boring. Probably would have worked better in third person, concentrating on just the major events, with less waffling of opinion on Cassie's part. I couldn't buy her being the one making all the biggest decisions. She goes from being a shy and naive young woman, to someone caught up in momentous events that forever change the dynamics of the Solar System. I won't go into detail about the plot, but my less than positive opinion also has a lot to do with the scientific principles discussed, which diverge from what I had expected to be somewhat realistic, instead venturing into extremely speculative, space-opera territory, if not outright fantasy. It's not really a spoiler to say...it's right there in the title.
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