The Empress of Mars

  • by Kage Baker
  • Narrated by Nicola Barber
  • 9 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits, and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet - only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn't turn a profit on Mars.
This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It's also the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan; of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another company entirely - all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world. But Mary and her struggles and triumphs are at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars.
Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, this is a rollicking novel of action, planetary romance, and high adventure.


What the Critics Say

“Most writers’ alternate universes are fun to visit, but Kage Baker’s is one I wouldn’t mind moving to: the Barsoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs... seen through the eyes of a writer far more poetic, vastly more scientifically literate, and with an infinitely superior sense of humor. Even as science-fictional taverns go, the Empress of Mars is memorable, a joint I hope I’ll be able to return to many times.” (Spider Robinson)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I love this book.

This is quirky, funny, endearing and even uplifting story of the first colonists on Mars. Not only is this a sci-fi, “wild west” adventure, but it is a subtle indictment of what society considers “normal”. Historically, “Go west, young man” was a polite way of saying “Go way, weird guy”. This is the case with the initial population of Mars.

In this future, mainstream society is atheist, vegetarian, and non-alcoholic. So those who subscribe to a religion, raise cattle, or drink beer are societal outsiders. The dumping of mental institutions’ population has always been an excellent way to seed the new frontier, especially when antisocial behavior is what put the person in “hospital”. It’s an excellent way to get a blue collar workforce for a completely hostile environment.

It’s nice to see that corporate greed and corruption is alive a well in the future. Pay to move employees somewhere (Mars), then close down the business, lay off the workers and let them fend for themselves. Let’s not forget corporate sabotage, fraud, intimidation… all the oldies but goodies.

The center of this counter culture society is a bar at the end of the habitable tubes filled with people who are at their metaphoric “end of the line”. This cast of characters is well worth the listen. I especially enjoyed the malfunctioning interpreter program used to translate the local Pan-Celt dialect to Italian. There also a lone American that runs a mobile casino\dental\insurance\investment\hmmm…“companion” business. It’s fun to see how the dysfunctional make a functional society.

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- Dave

A Fun Fusion of Heinlein, Shane, Barsoom, & Baker

Kage Baker???s The Empress of Mars (2009) was an enjoyable listen. It reminded me of a cross between Heinlein???s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and a western like Shane, but with a greater female focus.

Mary Griffith is the big-bosomed proprietress of The Empress, the only bar on Mars. She is working hard to live there with her three daughters and her handful of misfit workers, including Mr. Morton (an ex-psychiatric hospital inmate who would like to be a thespian), Manco Inca (an ex-terraforming specialist who is a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe), the Heretic (an ex-priestess of a Goddess worshipping religion), and Ottorino Vespucci (an ex-actor from a western show). Mary herself was a biologist employed by the British Arean Corporation in charge of colonizing Mars until they decided to cut costs and fire their workers, leaving them stranded on the red planet. Now Mary brews the best (the only!) beer on Mars, deals firmly and fairly with her neighbors, and takes in any strays who need a place to live. Can she keep her family intact and The Empress in business despite the corporation trying to take her land and the religious organization trying to make her clean up her act?

Kage Baker interestingly imagines how colonists might live on Mars, covering details like oxygen, temperature, shelter, terraforming, transportation, business, entertainment, reproduction, and religion. Her characters are often compelling, with different pasts, problems, and strong points. She also works into her novel plenty of funny allusions, to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe, The Wizard of Oz, Spiderman, Clint Eastwood, and so on. Her Mars is attractively gritty and sublime. And although she is sympathetic to women and their strengths and understands men and their weaknesses, she is not writing a feminist manifesto. Instead, she is on the side of kindness, freedom, fairness, tolerance, hard work, and fun.

Reader Nicola Barber has an appealing British voice and dexterously modifies it for different accents (American, Australian, cockney, Italian, etc.), and she doesn???t strain herself unnaturally for men. My only criticisms are that sometimes she breathes in audibly and that sometimes it???s a little difficult to distinguish between her accents for Chiring the Sherpa and Manco the South American, but really it???s pleasant and easy to follow the story as Barber reads it.

All in all I found The Empress of Mars to be an entertaining book, but I bet I won???t deeply remember it.
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- Jefferson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-09-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios