Ian McDonald's Desolation Road
is one of my most personally influential novels. It's an epic tale of the terraforming of Mars, whose sweep captures the birth and death of mythologies, economics, art, revolution, politics. Its publication preceded Kim Stanley Robinson's brilliant Red/Blue/Green Mars
books by years, but the two are very good companions, in that McDonald captures almost everything Robinson got (in a third of the number of pages), and adds the poetry and spirituality of Mars in the bargain.
Desolation Road pays homage to David Byrne's Catherine Wheel, to Ray Bradbury's entire canon and to Jack Vance, blending all these disparate creators in a way that surprises, delights, then surprises and delights again. Spanning centuries, the book includes transcendent math, alternate realities, corporate dystopias, travelling carnivals, post-singularity godlike AIs, geoengineering, and mechanical hobos, each integral to the plot.
Pyr Books has done us all the service of bringing this remarkable volume back into print after too long a hiatus (the equally delightful sequel, Ares Express, is out of print and pricey). They sent me a copy that I picked up from the post-box an hour ago, and I've been flipping through it ever since, getting reacquainted with this old and dear friend.
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