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book cover of As It Is On Mars

As It Is On Mars

A novel by

The story starts in 2038. There are two missions on Mars, a small Japanese Space Agency mission in Ares Valley, and a large NASA mission in Kasei Valley, 1700 miles to the west. Early on, the JSA mission suffers a crippling failure, and its sole survivor, an elderly scientist who is also a Zen master, faces certain death from starvation.

As the story opens, the NASA landing site is devastated by a catastrophe, caused by a funding shortfall that forces the mission to run risks. There are only two survivors, an American and a Frenchwoman, who were away on a rover expedition. Two of the mission's three long-range, nuclear-powered rovers also survive, but the surviving food will run out in only two weeks. News of the catastrophe is received with shock on Earth.

Next day, there is an emergency hearing on the disaster in Washington, attended by the world's space agency chiefs, and watched worldwide. The JSA chief drops the first bombshell, when she reveals that the Zen master in Ares Valley has broken off contact with Earth, in order to dig his own grave, and die in private.

The NASA chief then drops the next bombshell, when he reveals the enormous cost of rescuing the two NASA survivors in Kasei Valley ($100 billion in year 2000 dollars).

The U.S. President, outraged and apparently misguided (but actually, as later events would reveal, guided more truely than any could have known), soon comes to believe he is justified in using the rescue money to save thousands of lives on Earth instead. He directs his CIA to sabotage the antenna of the NASA mission's seventh lander, carrying mostly food, and due to arrive on Mars shortly. NASA loses control of the lander, and can't send it signals to prevent it from burning up in the Martian atmosphere.

There is now no hope for the two NASA survivors. They are soon out of food too, and must decide how to die. They follow the example of the Zen master, and break off contact with Earth. The American goes first, and lies down in his Martian grave one evening, to die in his sleep when his air runs out -- and so avoid a death of slow starvation. As he lies dying, his companion, the young woman, all alone, suffers a complete emotional collapse.

But then, the entirely unexpected happens, causing a great saga to unfold, set in the ancient outflow valleys of Mars and occupying most of the book.

It is a tale of amazing human resourcefulness, conflicting risks, heartbreaking setbacks, narrow escapes, and daring rover train journeys across the Martian waste. It is the story of a desperate attempt to carry out a master plan to build a unique survival resource in a Martian Shangri-La named Leaf Valley, an intriguing sanctuary on Mars that actually exists. And then there's the part played by the Japanese Zen master, with his great insight, technical skills and Zen awareness of Mars, just "as it is".

This master plan is the brainchild of the young woman, gifted with a brilliant creative and rational imagination. The emotional breakdown she suffered, as her companion lay dying in his grave, has altered her emotions, and transformed her into the first Martian. She no longer cares about Earth, and instead is determined to build, settle and be happy on Mars -- and so undo a great wrong.

The pace of the story is modest at first, during the hearing in Washington, but increases steadily as the tale unfolds. The ending, in which justice is done, is both climactic and anticlimactic. It lays the foundation for the continuation of this saga, as the Great Powers draw up their competing plans for gaining control of Leaf Valley and its trillion dollar resource.


Used availability for Thomas William Cronin's As It Is On Mars

Hardback Editions

August 2005 : Canada Hardback

Title: As It Is On Mars
Author(s): Thomas William Cronin
ISBN: 0-9687502-4-9 / 978-0-9687502-4-7 (Canada edition)
Publisher: Tharsis Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

April 2001 : Canada Hardback

Title: As It Is on Mars
Author(s): Thomas William Cronin
ISBN: 0-9687502-0-6 / 978-0-9687502-0-9 (Canada edition)
Publisher: Tharsis Books
Availability: Amazon UK