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 also 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 are at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars.
Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, this is a rollicking novel of action, planetary romance, and high adventure.
©2009 Kage Baker (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
“Most writers’ alternate universes are fun to visit, but Kage Baker’s is one I wouldn’t mind moving to: the Barsoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs... seen through the eyes of a writer far more poetic, vastly more scientifically literate, and with an infinitely superior sense of humor. Even as science-fictional taverns go, the Empress of Mars is memorable, a joint I hope I’ll be able to return to many times.” (Spider Robinson)
This is quirky, funny, endearing and even uplifting story of the first colonists on Mars. Not only is this a sci-fi, “wild west” adventure, but it is a subtle indictment of what society considers “normal”. Historically, “Go west, young man” was a polite way of saying “Go way, weird guy”. This is the case with the initial population of Mars.
In this future, mainstream society is atheist, vegetarian, and non-alcoholic. So those who subscribe to a religion, raise cattle, or drink beer are societal outsiders. The dumping of mental institutions’ population has always been an excellent way to seed the new frontier, especially when antisocial behavior is what put the person in “hospital”. It’s an excellent way to get a blue collar workforce for a completely hostile environment.
It’s nice to see that corporate greed and corruption is alive a well in the future. Pay to move employees somewhere (Mars), then close down the business, lay off the workers and let them fend for themselves. Let’s not forget corporate sabotage, fraud, intimidation… all the oldies but goodies.
The center of this counter culture society is a bar at the end of the habitable tubes filled with people who are at their metaphoric “end of the line”. This cast of characters is well worth the listen. I especially enjoyed the malfunctioning interpreter program used to translate the local Pan-Celt dialect to Italian. There also a lone American that runs a mobile casino\dental\insurance\investment\hmmm…“companion” business. It’s fun to see how the dysfunctional make a functional society.
I prefer intelligent, complex stories with deeply developed characters. I'm not a fan of most popular novels; my taste is more eccentric.
This story is about a rag-tag group of pioneers on Mars, with a tough, salt of the earth, matriarch at their center. Mary Griffith runs the Empress of Mars, providing beer to the few residents that have been able to stick it out on a desert planet with no oxygen, freezing temperatures, and dangerous sand storms. I love all the characters that Kage Baker has placed in this story of life in a bio-dome on Mars. Mary Griffith, of course, is the heroine. She is feisty, strong, and fiercely protective of all her fellow pioneers. Her brew house is a haven to many interesting people, the ex goddess-worshiping heretic, the enthusiastic journalist from Nepal, the gentle South American artist that carves beautiful statues in the Martian desert.... Kage weaves many themes into this tale - religion, politics, and feminism, but she always keeps it humorous. This is the second Kage Baker novel I have listened to and I will now proceed to gobble up her complete list of works!
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Kage Baker???s The Empress of Mars (2009) was an enjoyable listen. It reminded me of a cross between Heinlein???s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and a western like Shane, but with a greater female focus.
Mary Griffith is the big-bosomed proprietress of The Empress, the only bar on Mars. She is working hard to live there with her three daughters and her handful of misfit workers, including Mr. Morton (an ex-psychiatric hospital inmate who would like to be a thespian), Manco Inca (an ex-terraforming specialist who is a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe), the Heretic (an ex-priestess of a Goddess worshipping religion), and Ottorino Vespucci (an ex-actor from a western show). Mary herself was a biologist employed by the British Arean Corporation in charge of colonizing Mars until they decided to cut costs and fire their workers, leaving them stranded on the red planet. Now Mary brews the best (the only!) beer on Mars, deals firmly and fairly with her neighbors, and takes in any strays who need a place to live. Can she keep her family intact and The Empress in business despite the corporation trying to take her land and the religious organization trying to make her clean up her act?
Kage Baker interestingly imagines how colonists might live on Mars, covering details like oxygen, temperature, shelter, terraforming, transportation, business, entertainment, reproduction, and religion. Her characters are often compelling, with different pasts, problems, and strong points. She also works into her novel plenty of funny allusions, to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe, The Wizard of Oz, Spiderman, Clint Eastwood, and so on. Her Mars is attractively gritty and sublime. And although she is sympathetic to women and their strengths and understands men and their weaknesses, she is not writing a feminist manifesto. Instead, she is on the side of kindness, freedom, fairness, tolerance, hard work, and fun.
Reader Nicola Barber has an appealing British voice and dexterously modifies it for different accents (American, Australian, cockney, Italian, etc.), and she doesn???t strain herself unnaturally for men. My only criticisms are that sometimes she breathes in audibly and that sometimes it???s a little difficult to distinguish between her accents for Chiring the Sherpa and Manco the South American, but really it???s pleasant and easy to follow the story as Barber reads it.
All in all I found The Empress of Mars to be an entertaining book, but I bet I won???t deeply remember it.
Did you know you can put in a set of Ear-Buds, slap your Hearing Protectors over them, and Mow the lawn, Weed-Eat, etc, without your book being drowned out by engine noise? I recently listened to "Augustus" while wandering through the Roman Forum. I'm on my third set of "Sleep-Phones". I've been addicted to audible since 2004... I think my friends are starting to suspect I have a problem ;)
You'll recognize the British style of story telling pretty early on, it's got a feel of it's own that's hard to describe.. not "bad", just "different". The storyline itself is a bit on the "eye-rolling" side from time to time, and if you've had the pleasure to spend any time with a local (or AS a local) in a British Pub, you'll see all the stereotypical personalities mentioned here. It was a bit of a strange mix of styles for a Sci-Fi story, but I ended up enjoying it overall during a "Book Slump" when I couldn't seem to find one of the "Epic Great Sci-Fi Tales" we all love to find.
If you're in a book slump, you might want to spend a credit on this one.
I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.
Kage Baker is one of the best. I like her longer work better. But this is so silly and so well done. It's about life against the corporate system mixed with Pioneer Go Home. Just lovely.It's also a lovely description of your science club gone geek in space. Just read it. But do it where you can laugh out loud.
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.
Say something about yourself!
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. Lovers of classic science fiction, adventure, and subtle social commentary will find much to enjoy here.
Although this technically takes place within the universe of Baker's Company series, it stands very well on its own.
Nicola Barber's narrator is a delight!
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I loved Kage Baker’s “Garden of Iden” so much, I was eager to read more!
Sadly, I did not enjoy this story as much – it felt too jumbled to me and I had a hard time keeping it all straight. I liked the main schemes in the book (the development of space, colonizing planets, terraforming Mars), but the multitude of storylines confused me and I never really learned who was who, who wanted to do what, and what the purpose of certain plots were all about… like the blue bees for example: I didn’t get it.
I still can’t figure Mr Cochevelou out and who the Hell was Vespucci again??? I guess I was not in the right mood. Too bad.
Dust, wind, and people. Even in the harsh environment of Mars, people are people everywhere. Great characters, nice twist at the end, excellent reader.
Ottarino Vespucci, the poor little rich boy with the serious Wild West fantasy obsession. In spite of being a loon, he was a caring and creative person who made life work for him the way he wanted it.
She made the characters come alive and didn't overpronounce any words.
I enjoyed this story of the little guy in difficult circumstances pitted against the big inflexible conglomerate. There were some excellent plot twists that I did not see coming.
Great space western with women in some of the important roles.
"A Stellar Surprise"
Having read the blurb about this book, I was a little cagey about how good it might be. Never heard of the author and the storyline didnt sound that exciting. But the empress of Mars was on offer, at a good price so I gave it a chance. The risk paid off. This is a well written story that is enjoyably narrated. The pace and tone of the voice is soothing and easy to listen to.
There are some interesting characters in the story, the main lady herself, her tenants/employees, the settling farmers and the shady players who seek to profit from subterfuge on the red planet. There are one or two interesting ideas on terraforming and the new technologies that might evolve to make it successful. But otherwise this story has a heartwarming character development and well paced story evolution that, though slow to start, draws the listener in by the end, so you have a real connection with what is happening to the characters in the story as it closes.
All in all the ending is a little crazy and you miss some closure with some of the most interesting characters but this is definitely a story worth spending a credit on, especially if you want to give a new author and reader a try.
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