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Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science
Edited by Howard V. Hendrix, George Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin
Cover Artist: Front Cover: Mars as seen from the Viking 1 Orbiter on 07/11/1976 (NASA);
inset: Cover art by Frank Schoonover from 1917 edition of A Princess of Mars;
Back cover Plate 1 from the 1895 edition of Mars by Percival Lowell.
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
McFarland & Company Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780786459148
Date: 31 July 2011 List Price $49.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Visions of Mars is a collection of non-fiction works about an object that has fascinated people on Earth as long as people have been on Earth. The object is the planet Mars. The collection includes information on scientific discoveries about Mars, discussion about how writers used Mars in their works, and how Mars fits into science fiction.

Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science is a heavy-duty non-fiction collection of essays about the planet Mars. It is not a light read or something that you can read, "On the fly", but it provides a great perspective of how our modern culture is affected by literature about Mars.

My son is a history student and one of the things he has studied is how modern inventions influence and reflect our culture. Visions of Mars would be an excellent text book for a similar book concerning how Mars research and discovery affects our culture and conversely, how our culture and public opinion influence Mars research. Howard W. Hendrix, one of the editors of Visions of Mars, writes an introduction to the volume of essays that illustrates this point:

...you will find examinations of how these ...stories reflect the concerns of their authors and the cultural concerns of the times and places in which those authors wrote.
One of the most interesting things I found in Visions of Mars is how other countries view Mars in their literature and how it affects culture. I like to think that I am a student of the world, and that learning about other cultures helps me to better understand myself. Visions of Mars helps me do that. Another quote from the editor Howard W. Hendrix illustrates this point:
...the evolving texts of the Mars literary tradition in science fiction mirror our current situation, in which the extreme and exotic environments we continue to search out on Earth--as stand-ins for another world--prepare us not only for a fuller, on-site understanding of the other world, but also work toward the preservation of the world in which we already dwell.
For the details, Visions of Mars is divided into three sections:
  1. "Approaching Mars” offers a brief history of the scientific discoveries that have brought Mars to our attention.
  2. "The Uses of Mars" offers individual examples of how writer's have used Mars to project their visions of humanity’s future.
  3. "Science and Fictional Mars" offers two essays that broadly analyze the Martian phenomenon in science fiction.
After all my opinions and quotes, you probably think, "Why would a casual reader want to read this book?" The answer is simple--perspective. It is not a light read, but it has great references and perspectives. A casual reader can pick and choose the essays he wants to read if the whole book is too much. If he wants to read fiction, see movies, etc. about Mars, the essays in Visions of Mars provide many citations (including a full bibliography) that can be used as a great reference list for further media.

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