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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Dr. Robert Zubrin, who wrote the nonfiction book The Case for Mars in 1996, sets up an intriguing and convincing scenario for human exploration and colonization of Mars in the near future. His mastery of scientific detail carries over into the fictional First Landing, but it is also amazingly accessible to the terminally nontechnical, such as myself.
The year is 2011, and the five-member crew of The Beagle has just landed on Mars. The three men and two women will be spending more than a year studying the planet, and trying to answer the nagging question: "Is there life on Mars?" But ten months in close quarters has taken a toll on the crew's unity, and Colonel Andrew Townsend is struggling to keep differences in social backgrounds, mission priorities, and faith from breaking up his team. A romantic attraction causes mission historian Kevin McGee to side with beautiful, brilliant, and arrogant Dr. Rebecca Stanton against good-old-boy geologist Luke Johnson and prickly flight engineer Gwen Llewellyn. When a series of suspicious equipment malfunctions threatens their lives, the personality conflicts erupt into open hostility, as each side accuses the other of sabotage.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, an antispace colonization group has spread the rumor that the astronauts have been exposed to a deadly organism, and protesters are demanding that the crew not be allowed to return to Earth for fear of contagion. With an election coming up, the president of the United States is persuaded to give in to popular pressure. The team is then challenged to work together to get themselves home.
The account of their various successes and setbacks as they struggle to survive in a totally inhospitable environment makes First Landing a very satisfying read. (Kim Corradini)