I had some time to read this last week, as I was on planes and in airports killing time waiting for those planes. In those situations, having my tablet loaded with books to read is a very good thing. The tablet has enough battery power to keep going basically as long as I needed it. And I really appreciated having a long book to help me keep my mind off the wait. Which is where L.A. Behm II’s Martian Aria comes in. It is a satisfyingly big book.
Even though I love big books, just that alone is not enough. I always appreciate a good story, and he delivers. With some action and adventure, which is in there, too, deftly inserted as tales without being told. See, the central tale of the book is the old colonist telling the history of the Mars colony to a graduate student. Which could be, ah, academically boring. Only Behm manages to adroitly switch back and forth between ‘then’ and ‘now’ and there is a story happening in the ‘now’ as well. I shouldn’t spoil this if I tell you that the book is Hard SF, except for the aliens. Only the aliens aren’t alive in the ‘now’ of this story. But I’ll let you read that part.
What I really liked about this story was the characters he built. It takes you a while to get to know them, as he slowly builds them, putting a little in here, a telling phrase or action there. I liked that. The main character, the narrator, you get a fairly good feel for almost right away. But as the story goes on, you are allowed a chance to see what his team and later his family think of him, and how they treat him is telling. His voice may be modest, but you see that he is loved and respected, even as he tends to ‘aw, shucks’ in his narration. And that’s the other thing. There are no braggarts in this telling. Just men and women who got the jobs done, and in fact, one thing emphasized throughout is that those who are willing to get their hands dirty and work like dogs eventually win the prize.
There are no thrilling space battles in this book. But it’s a fun read. My only complaint is that the first chapter is a little rough, and I was relieved to see the story smooth out and become more clear after that choppy introduction. If you like Heinlein’s tales of colonization – Farmer in the Sky comes to mind – or…
I promised the author that I’d write a blurb for him, so here goes: Martian Aria tells the tale of mankind’s first steps onto Mars, the adventures of reaching the red planet, and the thrilling discoveries that awaited humanity’s best and brightest when they got there. A tale of rugged colonists, family, kittens, and those who were willing to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a new land, a new home. There is still another frontier, out in the stars, for those who are willing to grasp for it.