Astonishing interplanetary-voyage/exploration yarn from the talented but heretofore erratic author of the fantasy Talking Man and the alternate-history Fire On the Mountain (1988). In the 21st century, the US government has been sold off to private industry: Disney-Gerber owns NASA, but space travel is dead--until Hollywood monster-movie producer Markson decides to shoot a movie on Mars! (Seems that a spaceship, the Mary Poppins, was built but never used.) So Markson assembles his team: old NASA chums Rocket Man Bass and Captain Natasha Kirov, brilliant midget cinematographer Louis Glamour, Dr. S.C. Jeffries (he discovered a hybernation formula, very necessary since the trip will take months), certified Movie Stars Gary Fonda-Fox IV and Beverly Glenn--plus teen-age stowaway Greetings Brother Buffalo; computer-whiz Sweeney runs Mission Design in his spare time. The voyage proceeds smoothly, except that Beverly Glenn won't wake from hibernation, and grows a beard in her sleep. Finally, on Mars, Jeffries and Bass discover a sort of pre-biotic clay that eats some of their fuel--so to save weight for takeoff, Bass volunteers to stay behind; and Jeffries comes upon a strange artifact/signaling device that implies alien meddling with human evolution. Humorous and witty, with believable characters and doings--yet, above all, it's Bisson's beautiful and utterly convincing evocation of the Martian landscape that makes this one fascinating and unforgettable.