Arthur C. Clarke's second novel, "The Sands of Mars", published in 1951, differs greatly from his first novel. Whereas "Prelude to Space" was focused on the technical details of space travel, Clarke puts much more effort into character development in "The Sand of Mars". That is not to say that Clarke ignores the technical as much as he did the character development in his first novel. He has some interesting discussions on creating livable conditions on Mars for man, and he floats an idea which he would return to in "2010: The Year We Make Contact".
The story centers on Martin Gibson, a science fiction writer who has been invited to take a trip to Mars so that he can write about it. He is to ride aboard the Ares, which is a ship configured to start taking passengers to Mars. A fair amount of the story takes place on the Ares, as Gibson becomes acclimated to space and Clarke adds several incidents to the trip to keep the reader's interest while developing the characters. Clarke then plants the seeds for the big secret which Mars is keeping from Earth as Gibson arrives and is shown around the largest settlement.
The reader becomes acquainted with Mars through the eyes of Gibson and the events which occur around him. Using these events Clarke builds the reader's expectations for the secret, and also throws a few curves into the story itself, some of which aren't all that believable. In the end, the secret is revealed and along the way the reader has met some interesting characters, but all in all it is not one of Clarke's better works. There are just too many coincidences both in terms of character surprises as well as storyline ones to make it very believable.