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RED DUST by Paul J. McAuley


by Paul J. McAuley

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-13793-8
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

 An extraordinary saga, set somewhat nearer to home than McAuley's remarkable debut, Eternal Light (1993). Seven hundred years hence, a depopulated Earth is ruled by the Consensus eco- fanatics who allow nothing to change; on Jupiter, a self-aware probe calling itself the King of the Cats broadcasts rock music and propaganda; various dwindling groups of dissenters inhabit the asteroid belt; and Mars, habitable but slowly reverting to dust and drought and populated mostly by Chinese, is ruled by a committee of ruthless old men called the Ten Thousand Years, who, in a secret pact with the Consensus, have agreed to let Mars die in return for personal immortality. Young technician Wei Lee, who believes himself beholden to his great-grandfather, one of the Ten Thousand Years, stumbles upon a spaceship crashed in the dust. Aboard is Miriam Makepeace Mbele, a revolutionary from the asteroid belt whose body carries nanotech viruses of vast capabilities. She infects Lee with a kiss, and the viruses rebuild Lee's body and give him astonishing powers. Even after disaster befalls Miriam, a microchip in Lee's head retains a copy of her personality, which guides him to meet Chen Yao, a young girl also infected with viruses and revered by the community as a god. Together, despite many complications, they struggle to raise the rebellion and bring life back to Mars. McAuley's Mars is at once satisfyingly familiar and disquietingly alien: cultural contrasts, persuasive inventions, and constant surprises are set forth with a weird yet compelling logic. Superb.