Ian McDonald's brilliant Mars book, DESOLATION ROAD, finally back in print

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.

Desolation Road


  1. Ack! Too many great books / too little time! (This is, you understand, a great problem to have, far preferable to the alternative.)

  2. Don’t forget the other great influence on Desolation Road: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. To me,Desolation Road seems to be a (wonderful) mashup of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “The Martian Chronicles”.

  3. Cory – STOP IT! Cripes. Just finished Counting Heads (because of you) – now this… Though as Mr. Cook says, it’s a Cadillac problem.

  4. Without Cory, I might never have read Out on Blue Six by the same author, which lead me to Desolation Road, which is, indeed, a damn good read.

  5. If this remarkable book pays homage to anything, it would be Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

  6. Don’t forget the heavy debt this book owes to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude. McDonald really nails the magical realist style here. It’s a lovely book.

  7. Ok, you people with indispensable books that I also haven’t read aren’t helping. (Another addition for the Wish List.)

  8. Cory I hereby ascribe hipness points to you (3!) for mentioning Vance. Vance is, I think, just about the most underreognized author in the US. His prose is beautiful, his worlds unbelievable angular satires of humanity, and he is often hilarious.

    Vance is still alive, too, but he won’t be around much longer.

  9. If it’s as good or better than Kim Robinson’s Red/Blue/Green Mars series then it would be very, very good indeed.

  10. Actually, it presents an interesting counterpoint to Robinson’s work. Magic realism to his hard sci-fi.

  11. Nice to see a Bethlehem-Ares longhauler on the cover at last! I read this book when I was in highschool in the late ’80s and it still strikes me as one of the most beautiful things ever written.

  12. Actually, cory, ARES EXPRESS is not out-of-print, nor expensive. I just ordered it from amazon.com for $12.18. This is a paperback edition. The hardback edition is listed there as “unavailable.”

  13. Just finished it for the first time. Good book…abominable editing. This is the worst edited book I’ve ever read in my life. Probably due to Pyr’s no frills (ie. non-existent) editing on the reprint.

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