Facts:

▪   Book: Red Planet Blues

▪   Author: Robert J. Sawyer

▪   Genre: Science Fiction / Mystery

▪   Year of Release: 2013

▪   Read 356-page hardcover edition in August 2013.

Book Description: Alex Lomax is a private investigator on the rugged planet of Mars, a “wild west” of the future where prospectors of all types have come to the planet looking for quick riches.  However, many end up coming to less prosperous ends, and end up stuck on the planet and its habitat, with no ability to get home.  There are also a mix of biological humans and “transfers” on the planet, who have had the good fortune and money to transfer their mind out of a biological body and into a more permanent android body where they have increased strength and the potential to live indefinitely.  However, when a couple of Lomax’s recent cases start taking strange turns that involve the very foundation of the Mars habitat and the first settlers and explorers of the planet from a couple generations ago, Lomax begins to learn many dark secrets about a planet that is already crawling with dangerous people.

Book Review: This book is actually based on a short novella that Sawyer wrote in 2004 entitled, “Identity Theft,” which was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Award.  Sawyer has taken that story and expanded it into a lengthier, more expansive novel here.  The result is actually quite unique, with Sawyer doing a great job of weaving in hard science fiction, but also strong elements of mystery and lots of humour as well.  He even brings in a “wild west” feel on the planetary scenes, truly making you feel like we are in a “gold rush of the future” and this is what the gold rushes of old must have been like in some respects.  Sawyer is an expert at melding ideas and genres together, and taking bits and pieces and cobbling them together into a coherent, interesting plot.  There are many twists and turns that lead the reader to always wonder what may happen next.  There are no simple answers as we see multiple characters die, yet always have to wonder which character it was, since the prospect of “transfers” and “duplicates” is present.  Sawyer has added levels of complexity into the story that makes it enjoyable to read.

On the character development side, Sawyer has done a fairly nice job of fleshing out the principal character Alex Lomax, and also one of the secondary characters, Dr. Rory Pickover.  There are a number of other secondary characters, and although not all of them are fleshed out as nicely as could have been done, Sawyer does a good job with the primary characters and tends to focus on the plot and the action, which works in this novel.

His description of Mars, both the exterior beauty and landscapes, as well as the dirt and grime of the habitat within, are sometimes stark but always enjoyable to read.  Overall, this is an enjoyable science fiction novel about early human exploration and life on the planet Mars.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5.

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