I last read this 39 years ago, as a freshman in college It s hard to believe this 1951 novel was approximately 20 years old then, and approximately 60 years old now I re read it now because it was the yahoogroups Hard SF book of the month for March 2012, and in order to count it in the paperbackswap 2Q2012 SF Challenge as a first novel of a British writer This could be considered a precursor, set in the same universe, as Clarke s Space Odyssey books.I m afraid I remembered next to nothing about the novel from my first read I enjoyed it than I was expecting, but probably mostly those were feelings of nostalgia for a past era of science fiction At this point, even though Clarke aimed for a scientifically accurate description of Mars, distancing himself from the misconceptions of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom, his descriptions seem quaintly optimistic with regards to life on Mars and the Moon.Some aspects of this novel are probably auto biographical The one well developed main character a science fiction writer had a single traumatic female relationship in his past Two years later Clarke himself had a brief and failed marriage Given what is generally suspected about Arthur C Clarke s private life, there seems to be a lot left unsaid in this writing I also noticed that the colonists of Mars included few or no women whose purpose was other than to be the wives and families of the men This is so unlike the contemporary science fiction vision of Mars colonization, like a large military base It could be Clarke s own military background, or possibly an indication of an over idealized and unrealistic understanding of women.I thought the book was well written for its time, but expect it to be of limited appeal now in the 21st century. Space Writers Holiday When A Celebrated Science Fiction Writer Takes To Space On His First Trip To Mars, He S Sure To Be In For Some Heckling From The Spaceship Crew But Martin Gibson, Man About Space, Takes It All In His Stride That Is, Until He Lands On The Red Planet Once There The Intrepid Author Causes One Problem After Another As He Stumbles Upon Mars S Most Carefully Hidden Secrets And Threatens The Future Of An Entire Planet This is the first Arthur C Clarke novel I ve read I can t compare it to his own later novels, but it is interesting to note the differences between Sci Fi of the 50s to the genre today Fax machines on an interstellar spaceship Hillariously quaint Turning a moon into a sun Preposterously convenient While the character building was well done, and the few passages that were descriptive of the Mars Clarke was guiding us through were eloquent and picturesque, the book as a whole was fairly simple and quickly read There were a couple of surprises that caught the characters off guard without the reader catching on from the narration, but otherwise the ending was relatively predictable If it were written today, I would have rated it lower, but since it was a Sci Fi novel written in a time before we had even landed on OUR moon, I imagine it was pretty advanced for its time. I m having trouble putting this into context When originally published, what sort of book would sit next to it Something pulpy and ridiculous Was this revolutionary in its cold fidelity to hard physics and technological understanding of the time What would I compare this to Given Clarke s stringent adherence and reputation, it s tempting to pick at the things he doesn t get right cigarettes on spaceships, typewriters, administrator secretaries on Mars, meteorologists on space stations, newspapers in set type but I later wondered how many of these were deliberate, that suggesting handheld reading writing chatting devices with the capacity of several libraries would be a stretch too far for his audience. Martin Gibson is a science fiction writer and he decides to spend his money on a trip to the red planet which is now becoming colonised Gibson seems lacking in knowledge of space travel and how things work up there and so Jimmy, a young apprentice, is assigned as Gibson s teacher as it were The two become friends and soon Gibson is accepted as part of the group at first he is looked down upon, as just another writer of space adventures He is invited along on a mission across the planet in a jet and after an accident he discovers something going on and decides to investigate It seems there are plans afoot that could affect the future of both Earth and Mars Sands is a great little story but you can really tell its an early Clarke Apart from Mars s strange to us geology, sorry aerology, it was notable for me in using the old form of the word connection, with an x I think the last time I saw the word connexion was in a Dickens novel Still, all good stuff with drama a sandstorm , adventure young Jimmy being amazed by Mars s aerology and humour, not to mention a bit of relationship controversy Before I get into the meat of my review let me get one thing out of the way right now This book is almost seventy years old, written before we had any real understanding of what Mars was like We hadn t even managed to get anything into orbit when this book first came out, so there s bound to be a bit of a separation between the science and technology we know now and what this book asserts Got that Good.The story follows the adventures of sci fi writer Martin Gibson as he becomes the first tourist to visit Mars The book is essentially in two halves the first half tells us about the journey itself aboard the liner Ares, while the second half deals with Gibson s time on Mars and what he finds there At its core, this is a story of exploration, but as with so much of Clarke s work there are multiple layers to the narrative, and also in common with what I ve read of Clarke s work to date this is one hell of a readable story.With the first half being set on the liner Ares we get to learn a lot about the operation of the ship and her crew Even with a limited knowledge of spaceflight and interplanetary travel Clarke is able to present a believable and enlightening narrative, which can be a little dry at times but rarely fails to entertain We re amused by Gibson s first experience of low gravity and freefall, as well as his initial bout of space sickness we re presented with an awe inspiring description of the galaxy free of the haze of an atmosphere we get to share Gibson s first and only spacewalk, albeit in a suit that never was This is Clarke in his element, taking the technical aspects of what was known about space travel at the time and turning them into a fun, enticing story that makes it sound oh so easy.The second half brings us to Mars, via a brief stop off at Deimos, and it isn t long before the tone of the story changes Instead of being an exploration of space travel we re now presented with a frontier tale coupled with a subtle, almost invisible, detective story The colonists of Mars are up to something, keeping secrets, but Gibson doesn t seem all that driven to find out what Instead, he seems interested in discovering Mars for himself, trying to get to grips with the colonist spirit Here Mars is shown to be an inhospitable wasteland with a poisonous CO2 rich atmosphere The colonists, for the most part, live under domes in the capital city of Port Lowell There s a brief exploration of the plant life native to the red planet but mainly the second half focuses on the interaction between the various characters and how they deal with the dangers around them.As I mentioned at the top of this review, there s a lot that Clarke gets wrong in here, science and tech wise, but that s okay because this is great book despite that Yes, it is representative of its time, particularly where gender roles seem to be concerned the very few female characters mentioned are there as props for the male characters to interact with, while all the important jobs are undertaken by men but it still has a lot to say about human ingenuity This is typically optimistic fare from Clarke, and one of those books I d say anyone genuinely interested in the history of sci fi should add to their reading list.There s a reason Clarke is considered one of the Grand Masters of science fiction, and this, his first full length novel, goes a long way to show us what that reason is. This has been a difficult novel to rate, partly due to it being Clarke s first full length novel, but also that I ve found it difficult to keep thoughts of the author s later masterpieces i.e., The City and the Stars Childhood s End certainly two of the greatest works yet produced in the entire realm of Science Fiction from impinging onto memory as a no doubt unfair comparison. The Sands of Mars is an example of an author not only stretching his imagination into a novel length statement for the first time, but also shows his life long fascination with what initial space exploration and colonization might well be like in actuality The staggering use of imagination present in, for example, The City and the Stars is naturally enough not yet full blown present, but the underpinings of future expressive growth most definitely are The novel is a worthy read, and could just as well have been given three stars something which, judging by the cumulative rating of the novel, many have done and even higher than three stars it s just that, for me, I can t get the searing genius of the two above mentioned works out of mind and there are others those simply happen to be my personal favorites Rendezvous with Rama NOT THE SEQUELS also is resident in the upper echelon hierarchy So, fair or not, in comparison to certain of the later works, The Sands of Mars suffers More fairly, it s two and a half stars. I am attracted to Science Fiction from the first half of the twentieth century I like the cover art from the paperbacks I like the retro feel from the stories too.If you like books based primarily on world building, then you will enjoy this book If you depend on a story line with an arc and characters that are well developed, this story may disappoint.Martin Gibson is a writer and he has been selected to fly on a spaceship to Mars and send back news to Earth Earth wants to know if the efforts and financial expense to colonize the planet is worth continuing Mars hopes that his reports will encourage their home planet to continue their support.The first half of the book takes place on the ship where Gibson learns his way around and gets to know the astronauts Each astronaut has a strong distinctive character and I am sorry that they did not play a larger role in the story As soon as the ship lands on Mars, they all but disappear and the story shifts to Gibson s observations of the land he sees and the work the colonists have done to make it inhabitable for humans.Maybe this would have been interesting if it was non fiction, but just reading one person s idea of what living on another planet would be like is not my cup of tea, but other readers might like it For me it felt like reading a text book on ecology.There are moments of tension, but they are brief Mostly it s comparable to a mechanical Disney ride where one sits and observes the scenery while your cart takes you around the different lands.If you re a Six Flags type of person, you might go for something with a little suspense. British Lankese author Arthur C Clarke was one of the titans of science fiction when I was young in the 1970s, together with Americans Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein As I see it, Clarke was at his best from the late 1940s to the end of the 1960s, a period during which he for instance wrote the famous short stories The Sentinel and The Nine Billion Names of God Around 1950, he wrote The Sands of Mars, a sand in the spacesuit novel about one man s exploration of Mars and of himself, a story of growth and transformation, of becoming an adult and responsible individual.Clarke possessed a talent I have come to like and with advancing age, the ability to write an interesting yarn without introducing violent conflicts or bad guy characters The Sands of Mars is a prime example it deals with saving lives futuristic medicine , making deserts bloom well, sort of , and the constructive handling an old mess no spoiler here The main character, a science fiction author named Martin Gibson, grows in a credible manner from being immature and egocentric to assuming great responsibility.I found the novel in a bargain bookshop in my hometown Gothenburg in the late 1970s and it has remained in my bookshelf ever since I have read it so many times that I can summarize it on the run At the time of the purchase, the novel was about 25 years old and its description of Mars had been rendered obsolete by the detailed photo mapping of the Red Planet by Mariner 9 in 1972 But that did not matter much, because I liked it from the start.Clarke sends the reader to a worn out Mars covered by rolling deserts without exciting topology Its carbon dioxide atmosphere is reasonably thick and its dunes are home only to hardy plants not a Martian in sight One of the main themes is the interaction between the colonists and the planet, how people s mindsets get martianized while they are busy making the planet human friendly.Another interesting matter that Clarke deals a lot with is the significance of administration and efficient use of scarce resources Establishing a permanent human presence on Mars is an expensive and time consuming project and, in order to succeed, it must be managed in a professional and unheroic manner Therefore production statistics and balance sheets get as important as back breaking labor Scientific progress i.e in physics, chemistry, and xenobiology is the underlying key to success and Clarke uses this trope to create suspense every now and then protagonist Martin Gibson asks himself What the heck is really going on here Does the novel have any weaknesses The gender roles are antiquated and the story fails the Bechdel test But that s what Europe in 1950 looked like And it is hard to criticize Clarke here, because he does show how working women participate in the colonization of Mars even though they get almost no speaking parts in Martin Gibson s adventures From literary standpoint, the prose suffers from occasional Clarke isms quasi philosophical expressions like the stream of time , not so funny humor, etc that disrupt its otherwise smooth flow.In the 1950s, the readers must have seen The Sands of Mars as a plausible description of what interplanetary colonization could be like Today, six decades later, the story s technology is partially outdated e.g Martin Gibson uses a typewriter and carbon copies radios have tubes instead of transistors and partially futuristic e.g the well described nuclear powered passenger ship by which Gibson travels to Mars But despite its age, the novel remains a piece of solid craftsmanship because it deals with an issue that always is with us how to build a better world for our children, be it on Mars or on Earth.