Finches of Mars
By Brian Aldiss
Published by The Friday Project
Hardback/ebook (paperback forthcoming)
I wasn't aware of Brian Aldiss until The Friday Project started to publish his extensive back list of novels and stories. I thought I might as well start at the end! The Finches of Mars is apparently going to be Aldiss's last science fiction novel. I hope to be still writing at 88!
The Finches of Mars is a thoughtful science fiction novel and it starts off with a great premise. A few select humans are able to escape the confides of Earth as it slowly destroys itself with war, by being sent to Mars to build a colony. Their mission is to set up an utopia on the barren, dusty planet, consisting of six towers, each representing the major powers. The colonists must promise to abandon religion, take new names and no pets are allowed! The ensemble of characters in this novel must create themselves new identities and lives. Through out the novel, each character must contemplate their self-imposed exile and what it means to be human. At the beginning of the novel this trip to Mars is seen as a great opportunity but as the novel develops the characters start to see this as isolation and exile.
Aldiss tackles many ideas and themes through out the novel - evolution, philosophy, religion, time, psychological effects on humans, the world of business and academia and science. Some of the ideas could have been separate novels and some of the ideas are not resolved but left for the reader to draw their own conclusions. Sometimes the philosophical ideas start to meander and take over the novel, pushing the plot into the background.
There is a lot of cynicism through out the novel - humans are doomed on earth. They are also doomed on Mars too. Fertility is a major problem for the settlers. Babies are either stillborn or die shortly after birth. The colonists release that they can not fix this problem - they must wait for evolution to create a 'fix'. Aldiss explores the evolutionary debate through out the novel and how humans are at the hands of evolution. But don't worry, there is hope at the end of the novel. The plot starts to drift away at the end but overall this is a solid book with giant ideas.
I am looking to exploring the rest of Brian Aldiss's backlist.
You can buy Finches of Mars from your preferred online or offline bookshop.
I was lucky enough to be sent a copy from The Friday Project. Thank you!