Mars, 600 years in the future, is dying.
Five hundred years after the Chinese conquered the Red Planet, the great work of terraforming is failing. The human-machine Consensus of Earth had persuaded the AI Emperor to follow the Golden Path into a vast virtual reality universe, leaving behind an ungoverned planet swept by hunger riots and the beginnings of civil war.
Enter Wei Lee, a lowly itinerant agricultural technician: rock 'n' roll fan, dupe, holy fool - and unlikely Messiah. After stumbling on an anarchist pilot hiding near the wreckage of her spacecraft, he's drawn into a revolutionary plot that has been spinning for decades. With the help of a ghost, the broadcasts of the King of the Cats, a Yankee yak herder, and a little Girl God, Lee travels across the badlands, swampy waterways and vast dust seas to a showdown at the summit of the biggest volcano in the Solar System. Not even the God-like Consensus can predict the outcome of his struggle to define his own destiny . . .
Epic in scope, Red Dust's spectacular, fast-paced story brilliantly brings to life the planet that has captured our imagination like no other.
This is not so much a story of character as of place-specifically, the partially terraformed planet of Mars, nearly 600 years in the future. Through a kiss, Wei Lee, an ``itinerant agronomist technician,'' is infected with technoviruses that give him godlike attributes. One of the many side effects of the viruses allows Lee to tune in directly to the broadcasts of ``The King of Cats'' (Elvis by any other name) as Lee races around the planet, attempting to affect his own destiny and to release the trapped water that will make Mars fertile. During his journeys, Lee is rescued by yak-roping cowboys, meets with mutant dolphins, changes the nature of cyberspace and learns how to act heroically. McAuley (Eternal Light) is most successful in his wonderfully lively technology and in the way he melds the philosophies of the various cultures (Tibetan, Han, Yankee) that populate his Mars. The story bounces so swiftly from cavern to cyberspace that glitz, glitter and intriguing technical puzzles handily conceal the lack of depth; though this makes for a disorienting trip, it also ensures an exhilarating one.