The Forge of Mars - Bruce Balfour (2002)

The Forge of Mars sets out to be a rollicking near-future sci-fi adventure, with trips to Mars, alien artifacts, and all the trimmings. What it ends up as, unfortunately, is a fairly pedestrian book that is a mix of all sorts of genres, themes and plot devices, none of which really manage to coalesce into a really riveting narrative.

The story starts with our hero, a rebel fighting the system from within as a NASA scientist - and shadowy secret organizations are starting to take an interest in his radical concepts and breakthroughs. So far, so good. But ... we never learn much about the evil super-secret organization, or why they're interested. They kill some people, infiltrate some traitors, but never get fully fleshed out.

In fact, that's the central problem with the book. The skeleton of a good book seems to be in place, but there's hardly any flesh on those bones. This makes reading it an exercise in frustration at times. To give another example, our hero, Tau Wolfsinger, does go to Mars, and makes first contact with an alien race! And ... we never really learn much more about the alien race. They provide him with some sentient war-machines in order for him to stave off the bad guys on Mars, but why they do so is not adequately explained. And then they all go away again. And the reader, at least this reader, is left sputtering and saying, "That's it? The aliens leave, the bad guys tidy up their loose ends and the good guy gets married? That's not a novel, that's a Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta!" (Actually, that might make a good G&S. And you don't worry about the loose ends.)

It's not a terrible book. I don't feel like my time was stolen from me, but neither did anything about really stand out for me. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. But, sadly I didn't.

Overall Grade: C-

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