Voyage Mass Market Paperback – Sep 18 1997
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Kennedy survived. Like many alternate history stories, that's the premise of Stephen Baxter's Voyage. But in Baxter's version of the past, that one altered fact is the propellant that drives humanity into space, beyond the primitive lunar landings of the 1960s. Spurred by a JFK who champions space flight and a Nixon administration that backs NASA, humans reach Mars in 1986. But this is a tragic tale as well as a triumphant one, for Baxter's relentless realism chronicles the perils of extended space flight as well as its glamorous achievements, making for a gritty, true-to-life story. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
With just a little bit of alternate history, Baxter's excellent what-if novel about a 1986 Mars landing accomplishes its mission. The premise is brilliant: at the time of the Apollo moon landing, President Nixon authorized a Space Task Group to define the post-Apollo role of NASA. In real life, Nixon's directive in effect ended manned space exploration in favor of the Shuttle program; in Baxter's novel, thanks to one major change in history, the green light is given for a manned Mars mission, the Ares program. Seen primarily through the eyes of Natalie York, the geologist on the mission as well as the first women in space, the road from Apollo to Ares is potholed with bureaucratic battles, technical challenges, an Apollo XIII-like disaster and constant fretting about the inevitability (and necessity) of sacrificing lives to advance the cause of science. Baxter, whose recent works include a wildly imagined sequel to The Time Machine (The Time Ships), peoples his story with main characters who are as authentic as his science. By contrast, the supporting characters-notably an ex-NASA administrator who gets religion-are sketchy and barely integrated with the plot. Even so, there's plenty of imagination on display here-and research, too, as Baxter invents not only a credible mission to Mars but also a credible technical, political and personal history behind it. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
First, the narrative alternates between the years leading from the Apollo moon landing to the launch of the Mars expedition and the voyage to Mars itself. It is sometimes very hard to keep the two separate stories straight in one's memory. There is also next to nothing about what happens on Mars after the landing.
Second, Baxter totally fails to suggest that doing Mars instead of the shuttle would have any effect on society and history outside of the US space program. This is doubly puzzling because he basis his altered history on a John F. Kennedy having survived Dallas a cripple. (That premise may be one built on quicksand. Recent revelations about JFK's health problems and his private feelings toward space exploration make the idea of his physical survival into the 80s problematic, not to speak of his advocacy of a manned mission to Mars.) Regardless, the survival of JFK to be a kind of gray eminence of the Democratic Party would have been an interesting concept to explore, even without the space theme.
The story also has a bitter sweet air about it. Several Apollo lunar missions, as well as a number of unmanned probes such as the Pioneer and Voyager missions to the Outer Planets are cancelled to pay for sending people to Mars. And there is the faint whiff of melancholy that after humans return from Mars, there might be no further expeditions.
But, again following previous themes, disaster wakes the plotline up, and Voyage runs with good inertia to the end.
The plotline is well conceived and interesting, but any of you that are interested in the alternative history (which I have read only one other book about), Baxter may disappoint you. There is very little in Voyage of any political or historical consequence (well, other than NASA getting a manned mission to Mars). Real figures in history (such as JFK) take a very big back seat, and add almost nothing to this book. I found this lack of tie-in disappointing (especially with the teaser on the back cover mentioning JFK).
And finally, I was dismayed with the last four pages of this book. Baxter builds everything up nicely for the finale, and completely misses. The ending is completely out-of-character, and performs a jump back to "NASA mission mode" (i.e., downplayed and disappointing). Too bad, as otherwise, Voyage was an interesting read.
3 of 5 stars
On the plus side, and there are many plusses, the book explains from an "insider's" viewpoint what these astronauts go through. It isn't pretty. The sterile appearance of the space program is stripped away with broad strokes. These people are street fighters who look at competitiveness as one of the four food groups. The politics of NASA, the in-fighting, the seemingly ordinary choices these men and women made that would effect how history books are written decades later are described in hard-headed, unromantic terms. All at once you are enamored and a little bothered at what is written. "Could it be that superficial and heroic at the same time?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I can't say enough good things about this book. I've read it three times now, and continue to be enthralled with Mr. Read morePublished on Jan. 14 2013 by Colin Barnard
It's a good idea for a plot, and it certainly deserves better than the truly cringeworthy prose offered. Read morePublished on Dec 26 2003