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Menace Under Marswood by Sterling Lanier

This entry is part 33 of 56 in the series 2022 Reads

As always, I’m posting this weeks and weeks after I read it. Well, weeks, anyway. 

The back cover copy of this paperback seemed to promise a kind of planetary romance voyage tale, like a more modern (circa 1980s) take on Burroughs’ Mars adventures: a trip into the Martian “outback” to investigate a new threat among the people living in the Martian wilderness.

It starts out very slow. The setup preceding the adventure proper—which I’d expect a writer today to cover in 5–10 (or maybe 15) pages—takes about a third of the book, with base politics, an encounter with a shaman and a drug-induced shared dream, some really icky “flirting” that reads more like workplace sexual harassment, and other stuff that I found myself skimming because I thought the Martian outback stuff was going to start much sooner. 

It turns out that I signed up for a book that Lanier really set out to write. There’s a ton of dialogue and colonial politics, and not much Martian wilderness travel. (They don’t even trek through the wilderness: they manage to take a tunnel that exits into the middle of the wilds.)

There’s interesting tidbits here and there, especially in the last 25 pages, but overall it wasn’t for me. (It’s rare that I skim an entire book, but I did with this one.)


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