Thursday, 1 December 2011

John Varley, In the Hall of the Martian Kings (1978)


In the title story, a group of Martian explorers are trapped on the red planet when the plastic tents they're living in are deflated by plasticophage alien bugs. It's good, foresquare, old fashioned golden-age-y fun, as the group struggles to survive until the rescue mission is launched from Earth, and gradually mutates into the first true Martian settlers. One of the characters may be black, I'm not sure. I may have been misreading Varley's cues. What do you think?
At this distance he would have been unable to tell who she was if it weren't for the black face.
Hmm. Not sure.
Mary Lang, the black woman, was sitting on the edge of Lou Prager's cot
So difficult to tell, when a text is as colourblind as this one.
The floor heaved up in the center, throwing the black woman to her knees.
Hmm. Maybe all the characters are black? Hard to say.

7 comments:

Eric said...
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Sarah said...

Although the quotes do sound a bit crass, I remember reading a Varley story years ago about a community of deaf and blind people which really stuck in my mind and (as far as I remember) seemed pretty liberal and engaging. Looked it up, and it's called 'The Persistence of Vision'.

Adam Roberts said...

Sarah: 'Persistence of Vision' is a great story, one of the greatest written in the genre. And I've a lot of time for many of Varley's novels. I don't know him, but I'd be surprised if he considered 'liberal' to be a term of praise: he's pretty Heinlein-esque. In Steel Beach there's a community of Heinleinistas, politically ultra-libertarian, which the book more or less valorises.

Sarah said...

Thanks Adam - I must read it again. It was a *very* long time ago - when I was at school - so I probably didn't have a very nuanced understanding of the ideology!

Richard said...

In the Bowl and The Phantom of Kansas were also very moving if I recall correctly.

Richard said...

In the Bowl and The Phantom of Kansas were also very moving if I recall correctly.

Irene Jennings said...

his is a very good short story collection which was also published as "THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION". This was my first John Varley book and his best. The stories are: "The Phantom of Kansas", "Air Raid", "Retrograde Summer", "The Black Hole Passes", "In the Hall of the Martian Kings", "In the Bowl", "Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance", "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" and "The Persistance of Vision". As you may guess from the titles there is a strong tendency towards "hard" SF with stories set on Venus, Mars, Mercury, Janus and a space station, along with time-travel, back-up storage of the mind, a man trapped inside a computer. These stories are very human, optimistic, sexually liberated and apart from anything else, a good read.

Irene (Learn more about Pheasant Bonanza Nebraska Pheasant Hunting Club)