Taking place in the kaleidoscopic future of Ian McDonald's highly-praised Desolation Road, Ares Express is set on a terraformed Mars where fusion-powered locomotives run along the network of rails that is the planet's circulatory system and artificial intelligences reconfigure reality billions of times each second.
One young woman, Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Asiim 12th, becomes the person upon whom the future – or futures – of Mars depends. Driven away from the locomotive that has always been her home by the thought of a boring marriage and an all-consuming wanderlust, she consults her dead twin, Little Pretty One, about her future. But that future will take in religious cults, artificial intelligences that are as gods – and the gods themselves.
Big, picaresque, funny; taking the Mars of Ray Bradbury and the more recent, terraformed Red Planets of authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Bear, Ares Express is a wild and wooly magic-realist SF novel, with many bizarre philosophies, strange, mind-stretching ideas and trains as big as city blocks.
Ian McDonald (born 1960) is a British science fiction novelist, living in Belfast. His themes include nanotechnology, postcyberpunk settings, and the impact of rapid social and technological change on non-Western societies.
Photo: Ian McDonald at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, 2005. Picture taken by Szymon Sokół. Source: Wikimedia Commons.