This is another classic science fiction novel that I didn’t get around to reading until the pandemic. Spoiler alert: It’s a good one. Often I synopsize the books I am reviewing, but I don’t know if I will be able to do it in this case. Moving Mars is long and complex, and I have to admit that I do not understand all the intricacies of concepts and hardware that Bear postulates. Thankfully, though, it is not necessary to grasp all of the details to be able to greatly enjoy this book.
Moving Mars starts out somewhat deceptively; my first impression was that it might be a young adult space opera. The first person viewpoint character is a woman named Casseia Majumdar. As the story begins, she is a teenager involved in civil resistance when authorities try to shut down her school. That crisis is averted, but Casseia develops the urge to participate in politics and is chosen to join a delegation from Mars to the Earth. Bear goes into fascinating details concerning the months-long flight from Mars to Earth and Casseia’s impressions of Earth, which is intent on subjugating and exploiting Mars.
As Mars begins to form a republic, Casseia becomes vice president. She finds out that an old schoolmate has been experimenting with momentous innovations in physics that would allow humans working with AIs to physically move moons and entire planets. Earth’s aggression increases when it becomes aware of this breakthrough. It attacks Mars and…
You don’t really want to tell you the ending, do you? For me this book started a bit slowly during Casseia’s teen years, but my interest picked up as I realized that Bear, in each section, adds complexity and depth until it becomes epic in its speculations on politics and science. He creates a vast futuristic solar system full of drama and intrigue, focusing mainly on the planet Mars, its inhabitants, its landscape, and its biological and political history.
This is one of the goals of good science fiction: to take readers into new worlds and maintain verisimilitude while doing it. Some science fiction writers are great with ideas and some are great wordsmiths, but Bear is both. His ideas are compelling, absorbing, deep, and meticulously thought out, and his prose is clean, clear, and sometimes poetic. Throughout the narrative, Casseia’s voice is consistent, compelling, and intelligent. The book is presented as the memoir of an elder statesperson written after the amazing events at the story’s climax. An afterward emphasizes the value of her memoir as a history of how Mars comes to be what it is.
All in all, this book is a well-told science fiction novel. It takes you on a journey to an imaginary world and gives you a tour in fascinating detail. It’s one of those books that grips you more and more tightly until by the end you wish it didn’t have to stop. Pick up a copy and find out for yourself.