Mars — The Red Planet

Since Mick Farren came up over at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations, I thought I’d post this.

In case you’re interested, I just finished all the first drafts of a long series of blog posts, and I hope to start posting the final versions soon.

Raw Feed (1991): Mars — The Red Planet, Mick Farren, 1990.

Cover by David Schleinkofer

I bought this book because I couldn’t resist the title and cover blurb: “Glasnost was dead, and the cold war on Mars was heating up…”.

I hadn’t read any Mick Farren before and didn’t know what to expect.

The book was competently done. Farren, particularly in his delightfully baroque spacesuits, is obviously trying to do a cyberpunk novel on Mars. He even borrows John Shirley’s terminology of ICE — intrusive counter-electronics.

Farren knows his science, doesn’t over plot, packs in lots of plausible description that makes Mars seem like a plausible Old West, and paces well and uses lots of dialogue, some humorous.

But Farren is an essentially derivative writer. Besides Shirley, there is an explicit reference to Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers (the malevolent influence of a buried spaceship is used here) and, I think, to King’s Misery (two characters remark on the disappearance of King in the mid-nineties — his car wrecked in a Colorado snowstorm but no body was ever found). The mind parasites mentioned in the last chapter are perhaps based on Colin Wilson’s novel of the same name which I’ve never read it. [I did review it later.]

At first, I thought Farren’s serial killer and his mental entity were merely a conventional metaphor for psychosis but, since this is sf, Farren decided to literalize the metaphor.

Unfortunately, Farren couldn’t resist the evil-that-will-not-die ending. I liked some of the book’s characters but most of the ones I liked died (I really didn’t care if Lech Hammond, journalist, lived.)

Farren creates tension in some places, particularly with his KGB. His repressive novostroika seems prescient given current headlines in the U.S.S.R. He seems to have a bit of anti-military bias, but it didn’t interfere with the story.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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