The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Author: Kage Baker
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Paperback
Genre: Science Fiction


When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the gruelling task of terraforming the cold red planet—only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars.

This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It’s the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan, of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another Company entirely, all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world. But Mary and her struggles and triumphs is at the centre of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars.


I fell in love with this book right from the get-go. I mean, what could be better—it’s a wonderfully written western about a strong-willed woman set on the frontier. A frontier which just happens to be, yes, you guessed. Mars.

Mary Griffith is just the kind of character I love. She’s full of quirky foibles, piss and vinegar and, after being summarily dumped by the British Arean Company (a great name by the way) she’s reduced to making do and making ends meet by doing the one thing her Irish-ancestors were always good at: brewing ale and running a bar!

What’s more, Mary is not alone; with three daughters to look after and a menagerie of misfits and left-overs, Mary struggles admirably between a rock (the British Arean Company hellbent on closing her down or, at the very least, undermining her) and a hard place. Mars herself.

Kage Baker has a keen eye for characterisation, and deftly leads us (and Mary) on a merry dance of ups and downs, scrapes and battles, as we wonder how Mary (and her motley idiosyncratic crew) will get out of her latest dilemma and, in doing so, stick it to the British Arean Company in the process. But the story isn’t as simple as that. It’s layered enough as a character portrait (of Mary at least) as much as it is part action-adventure and mystery. Throw in a healthy measure of wry humour and satire, as far as I am concerned, you have a winning mix.

The Empress Of Mars is a page-turning, rollicking good read and the kind of adventure story I loved as a kid, and adult alike. I hope you’ll love it too.

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