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)
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!
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'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.
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.
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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.
This is a wonderful character driven sci-fi that in many ways feels like Heinlein's work. This is a wonderful little novel. Really... this is worth the credit.
This is not an overly complex book, and you can kinda guess based on the title and the tone of the story how things are going to turn out, but it's still a fun ride.
It's pretty much your typical story of the people versus The Corporation. The Corporation is the group that started the Mars colony, and the people are the colonists who always get the short end of the stick when the Corporation decides it needs to improve the balance sheets. And first amongst the people is Mary Griffith, proprietor of the only bar on Mars.
The book is also set at some undetermined point in the future where Christianity is on the down and out and Organized paganism is now the popular religion. (Which might seem like a good thing depending on your personal beliefs, but as usual it seems that there's very little good about a religion that getting Organized can't fix.) It seems like there may be some tie-ins to other books she's written, but since this is the first book of hers i've read i can't be certain of that.
It turns out that Organized pagans frown on intoxicants and it seems that beer (and thus bars) are illegal in a lot of places on Earth and aren't looked at too fondly on Mars either.. On top of that as the story progresses Mary and her unusual friends and patrons become more and more of an impediment to the Corporation's goals.
The conflict isn't all light and cheery, there is some drama and tragedy, but one gets the feeling that one way or another Mary is going to come out on top in the end, and the fun is in seeing how exactly that will be accomplished.
As for the performance of the book, it's quite well done. This is one of the few cases where a strong accent for one of the characters seems appropriate, perhaps because the character in question is such an outsider, and yes, because the language difficulties are sometimes used for comic relief.
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