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WHITE MARS by Brian W. Aldiss


or, The Mind Set Free, a 21st-Century Utopia

by Brian W. Aldiss & Roger Penrose

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-25473-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

British F&SF grandmaster Aldiss (Common Clay, 1996, etc.) teams up with distinguished physicist-mathematician Penrose

to offer a polemic, presented from a wealth of viewpoints, whose binding principle is that Mars should be left pristine, a refuge

for science and contemplation, rather than systematically exploited. Less than 40 years from now, Mars is home to a scientific

colony devoted to searching for the Omega Smudge, a persistently elusive quantum entity that, once detected, will reveal the

secrets of gravity and, possibly, human consciousness itself. Populations of transients are also permitted to visit Mars in reward

for a year of necessary but difficult labor in Earth's deprived regions. The international consortium EUPACUS pays the transport

bills and thus expects to own Mars in due course. But EUPACUS is corrupt, and its spectacular collapse takes Earth's global

economy down with it. So Mars's six thousand souls, utterly isolated, try to create a new kind of society: a practical utopia, free

of the old hatreds, shibboleths, prejudices, and distortions. Scientist-turned-philosopher Tom Jefferies leads the way, mediating

endless debates—in effect, huge town meetings—on profit and labor, religion, sex, crime and punishment, education, etc. Perhaps

astonishingly, problems are solved, agreements reached; Martian society inches toward the ideal. It's not, however, all roses:

dissent, violence, and murder still exist, and Mars society will face extinction or salvation from a source so monstrous as to defy


Not particularly gripping as fiction, but engrossing and provocative nonetheless.