Colonists on Mars fight to prevent their own extinction in “a suspenseful genre-bending combination of straight SF and mystery” (Booklist, starred review).
Doomed by overpopulation, irreversible environmental degradation, and never-ending war, Earth has become a fetid swamp. For many, Mars represents humankind’s last hope. In six tightly clustered towers on the red planet’s surface, the colonists who have escaped their dying home world are attempting to make a new life unencumbered by the corrupting influences of politics, art, and religion. Unable ever to return, these pioneers have chosen an unalterable path that winds through a landscape as terrible as it is beautiful, often forcing them to compromise their beliefs—and sometimes their humanity—in order to survive.
But the gravest threat to the future is not the settlement’s total dependence on foodstuffs sent from a distant and increasingly uncaring Earth, or the events that occur in the aftermath of the miraculous discovery of native life on Mars—it is the fact that in the ten years since colonization began, every new human baby has been born dead, or so tragically deformed that death comes within hours.
The great Brian W. Aldiss has delivered a dark and provocative yet ultimately hopeful magnum opus rich in imagination and bold ideas. A novel of philosophy as much as science fiction, Finches of Mars is an exploration of intellectual history, evolution, technology, and the future by one of speculative fiction’s undisputed masters.
Those expecting a feather in the cap of Aldiss's long and distinguished writing career will be disappointed by the utter failure of this disjointed series of vignettes, set in a vague near future. It's meant to tell the tale of a major problem facing a Martian colony: the colonists' inability to produce live offspring. As a narrative, it lacks cohesion, jumping back and forth between Earth and Mars and among characters with little apparent point. Aldiss belabors the tragedies of the stillbirths and the seemingly endless wars that have embroiled the entire Earth (but that don't seem to personally affect any of the characters). The story is further clogged by scientifically nonsensical elements with no mention of terraforming, the pressure and outdoor temperatures on Mars are now comfortable and wrapped up with a textbook case of deus ex machina that renders the entirety of the story utterly irrelevant.
Finches of Mars
I received a copy of this for free from Netgalley.
This is a tough book to review. There was a lot that I liked about it. For the most part, it felt like more of a classic sci-fi story. I enjoyed reading about the colonists, and I liked how the author wrote about potential problems that I hadn't even considered might occur for future colonization of other worlds.
In my opinion, there was too much sex in the book. Seemed like someone was either having sex or thinking about sex at least every other page for a while there. That distracted from the story quite a bit.
I think that this book could have benefitted from another 100 pages or so. The seeds of a great sci-fi story are there, but they aren't fleshed out. You are introduced to many characters, but you never quite get a feel for them as people. You know their names and, sometimes, their motivations, but you are on to another character before you have time to relate to them completely.
I didn't mind the ending. It felt a bit rushed, but overall it worked for me. Why not? It's a science fiction story, the beauty of that is that anything can be possible.