The Empress of Mars (The Company Series)

The Empress of Mars (The Company Series)

by Kage Baker

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765325518
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 02/16/2010
Series: Kage Barker's Company Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

KAGE BAKER lives in Pismo Beach, California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Big Red Balloon

What were the British doing on Mars?

For one thing, they had no difficulty calculating with metric figures. For another, their space exploration effort had not been fueled primarily by a military-industrial complex. This meant that it had never received infusions of taxpayers’ money on the huge scale of certain other nations, but also meant that its continued existence had been unaffected by bungled wars or inconvenient peace treaties. Without the prospect of offworld missile bases, the major powers’ interest in colonizing space had quite melted away. This left plenty of room for the private sector.

There was only one question, then: was there money on Mars?

There had definitely been money on Luna. The British Lunar Company had done quite well by its stockholders, with the proceeds from its mining and tourism divisions. Luna had been a great place to channel societal malcontents as well, guaranteeing a workforce of rugged individualists and others who couldn’t fit in Down Home without medication.

But Luna was pretty thoroughly old news now and no longer anywhere near as profitable as it had been, thanks to the miners’ strikes and the litigation with the Ephesian Church over the Diana of Luna incident. Nor was it romantic anymore: its sterile silver valleys were becoming domesticated, domed over with tract housing for all the clerks the BLC needed. Bureaucrats and missionaries had done for Luna as a frontier.

The psychiatric Hospitals were filling up with unemployed rugged individualists again. Profit margins were down. The BLC turned its thoughtful eyes to Mars.

Harder to get to than Luna, but nominally easier to colonize. Bigger, but on the other hand no easy gravity well with which to ship ore down to Earth. This ruled out mining for export as a means of profit. And as for low-gravity experiments, they were cheaper and easier to do on Luna. What, really, had Mars to offer to the hopeful capitalist?

Only the prospect of terraforming. And terraforming would cost a lot of money and a lot of effort, with the successful result being a place slightly less hospitable than Outer Mongolia in the dead of winter.

But what are spin doctors for?

So the British Arean Company had been formed, with suitably orchestrated media fanfare. Historical clichés were dusted off and repackaged to look shiny-new. Games and films were produced to create a public appetite for adventure in rocky red landscapes. Clever advertising did its best to convince people they’d missed a golden opportunity by not buying lots on Luna when the land up there was dirt cheap, but intimated that they needn’t kick themselves any longer: a second chance was coming for an even better deal! And so forth and so on.

It all had the desired effect. A lot of people gave the British Arean Company a great deal of money in return for shares of stock that, technically speaking, weren’t worth the pixels with which they were impressively depicted in old-engraving style. The big red balloon was launched. Missions to Mars were launched, a domed base was built, and actual scientists were sent out to the new colony along with the better- socially-adapted inhabitants of two or three Hospitals. So were the members of an incorporated clan, as a goodwill gesture in honor of the most recent treaty with the Celtic Federation. They brought certain institutions the British Arean Company officially forbade, like polluting

The Empress of Mars industries and beast slavery, but conceded were necessary to survival on a frontier.

So all began together the vast and difficult work of setting up the infrastructure for terraforming, preparing the way for wholesale human colonization.

Then there was a change of government. It coincided with the British Arean Company discovering that the fusion generators they had shipped to Mars wouldn’t work unless they were in a very strong electromagnetic field, and Mars, it seemed, didn’t have much of one. This meant that powering life support alone would cost very much more than anyone had thought it would.

Not only that, the lowland canyons where principal settlement had been planned turned out to channel winds with devastating velocity. Only in the Tharsis highlands, where the air was thinner and colder, was it possible to erect a structure that wouldn’t be scoured away by sandstorms within a week. The British Arean Company discovered this after several extremely costly mistakes.

The balloon burst.

Not with a bang and shreds flying everywhere, exactly; more like a very fast leak, so it sort of dwindled down to an ignominious little lopsided thing without much air in it. Just like the dome of the Settlement Base.

So a lot of people were stuck up there without the money to come home, and they had to make the best of things. Under the circumstances, it seemed best to continue on with the job.

Excerpted from The Empress Of Mars by Kage Baker.

Copyright © 2009 by Kage Baker.

Published in May 20096 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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The Empress of Mars (The Company Series) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
After terraforming a moon colony into a mega profit, the British based Aerean Company has done likewise on Mars. However, unlike the great success on the moon, the Martian project has run into financial trouble as the profits have not been anywhere near the projections. Unable to retain the current workforce, Aerean downsizes many of the colonists, who have no alternatives once they are terminated. Those unemployed must create work like Mary Griffith did as owner and brew-master of the only bar on the forth planet from the sun, The Empress of Mars. Others do likewise as Cochevelou forms an agricultural cooperative and Crosley establishes a casino-dental clinic. Others residing in the Martian Motel must find work as life on the aptly named Angry Red Planet for those discarded by the company is to generate a profit making cottage industry or die; Darwin is proving to be right as most of the stranded survivors know big business, Great Britain and mega religion except perhaps to the Ephesian Goddess worshippers are irrelevant. With the Company taking a needed R&R, Kage Baker provides an intriguing look at a cast of outcasts struggling to survive, but those who do so throw away social convention (as defined by Aeran Company and Great Britain) in order to apply unconventional means. Rebellion seems impossible as the fired employees have no major market to buy weapons (this is not the Mexican cartels crossing into the United States and ironically applying their second amendment rights). The prime players have differing personalities yet share in common courage to make it; their mantra ought to be if I can make it on Mars I can make it anywhere even Manhattan. With a vast history hinted at like Luna terraforming and Great Britain winning the space race, fans will enjoy toasting these unlikely champions with a beer at the Empress of Mars. Harriet Klausner
ronincats on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This science fiction book is only tangentially related to Baker's Company series--in the same universe but no character or plot overlap. Baker has created a vivid picture of a dying colony on Mars, with a nearly bankrupt corporation cutting their colonists off with nothing in an environment depicted with realism and depth. The characters are distinct and colorful, the plot lines intertwine, and the story moves along with vigor.So why am I left feeling just a bit unsatisfied at the end? Even though this is very character-based, there is lots of action as well. Is it the rapid denouement? Or is it the feeling that we have just dipped into this reality for a slice of time, and leave before we are really ready?
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Plucky colonists eke out a living on Mars and eventually triumph over the neglectful company that brought them there. Tangentially related to the Company series.
Arconna on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The Empress of Mars is most certainly an experiment in expectations. Having read Baker's The House of the Stag (and loving it, by the way), and being wholly unfamiliar with her Company novels, I had expected The Empress of Mars to be another adventurous, incredibly internalized story, only with spaceships and other science fiction furniture instead of magic and half-demons. Only, that's not what I got. Instead, The Empress of Mars provided me with more of Baker's ability to craft character and a strangely vibrant vision of a Mars that just might be, without the need for explosions and laser pistols to keep things interesting.The Empress of Mars takes place on, well, Mars, obviously, and follows Mary Griffith, a worshiper of "the Goddess" and owner of a seedy bar called The Empress, practically the only thing she owns, and a business she is struggling to keep afloat. There, she and her daughters, and a ragtag group of unwanted men and women who have come to Mars for the chance to make a life for themselves, eke out a meager living under the stern hand of the British Arean Company. Mary has had a hard life, too, with the BAC breathing down her neck, but unable to do anything about her, and all manner of unsavory characters wanting to see her pushed off the planet for good. After a string of good luck, however, Mary finds herself the target of the BAC's legal rumblings and business acumen. Now everything rests on Mary's shoulders: her business, the fate of Mars, and, most importantly, her family.Baker's pension for character is certainly a feature of this installment in her Company series. Mary Griffith is one of a set of astonishing array of unique characters, all with powerful motivations, wonderfully realized dialogue, and Baker's own flare for creating fascinating black and white figures on both sides of the coin. You still hate her bad guys, but you at least understand why they do what they do and disagree with them either because you hold different beliefs or because their tactics are unacceptable. Her good guys have similar problems, and this makes her story incredibly character-driven, because as the story moves along, Baker creates for us a long string of flawed, but endearing figures that you can't help but love, even if you disagree with aspects of their lifestyles. There are no wooden characters here.Pacing and world-wise, The Empress of Mars doesn't leave too much to the imagination. Some might conceive of this as a flaw, considering that much of Baker's novel is not at all unlike what we might see going on today: legal blunders, corporations overstepping their bounds, bitter attempts to steal land from underprivileged people, etc. The plot does take some time to get moving, but once it does, Mars comes to life as a clear, but somewhat exaggerated (and necessarily so) reflection of our present. Everything is laid out for the reader, bringing focus to the characters and their struggles with what is going on around them and de-centering the wider struggle of mankind; this creates isolation in plot and world, providing ample space for Baker to develop the scenery and history of the Mars colonists. Only in the end do things move a little too quickly, and some questions are left unanswered, but perhaps for good reason (the supernatural might have played a welcome--or unwelcome, depending on your perspective--hand in the overall story, but that's up for the reader to decide on his or her own).Beyond a somewhat lingering plot, Baker's imagining of religion seems to have a stronger connection to exoticism than realism. I feel as though the insertion of the mostly-pagan worship of the Goddess was inconsistent with what actually might be true in our own future. Mary's relationship to "the Goddess," while interesting, reflects more of the old, somewhat absurd early renderings of Mars in science fiction. Granted, I have not read her other Company novels, so perhaps there are some clear and powerful motivations for the changes in
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