Exploring Mars Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow 

public domain image of Mars from space, Going to Mars book reviews, lynettemburrows.com

I posted a series of book reviews titled, Going to Mars Word-by-Word, in September 2012. It was a fun exploration of the portrayal of Mars in classic to modern science fiction. In real life, we’ve been exploring Mars in new and better ways since then.

The number of launches to Mars is too long, international and complex for a single post by a space enthusiast with limited aerospace knowledge. We’ll focus on a few of the NASA missions. 

Odyssey

Mars Odyssey launched on April 7, 2001 and arrived on October 24, 2001. It is an orbiting spacecraft that studies Mars’ surface. Its mission is to detect water, shallow buried ice, and to study the radiation environment. 

It is still operational.

Spirit and Opportunity

Spirit was a Mars Exploration Rover launched by NASA on June 10, 2003. Its twin, Opportunity, launched on July 7, 2003. About the size of a golf cart, they carried the same scientific instruments. They landed on opposite sides of the planet on January 4 and 25 (UTC), 2004. 

They searched for and characterized a wide range of rocks and soil for clues about past water activity on Mars. Scientists planned for the rovers to drive up to 40 meters (approx. 44 yards) a day for up to 1 kilometer (about three quarters of a mile). 

These mechanical geologists exceeded their creators’s wildest dreams. Spirit concluded its mission in 2010. Opportunity worked for almost fifteen years. Scientists lost communication with it on June 10, 2018, during a planet-wide dust storm. It drove 45.16 kilometers (28.05 miles). The findings of the two rovers showed scientists that a very long time ago, Mars had salty seas and may have looked a lot like water on Earth.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) blasted off in 2005. On March 10, 2006, the orbiter reached Mars. Its scientific instruments studied the planet’s surface from orbit. The mission was to seek the history of water on Mars with extreme close-up photography. 

The MRO’s last communication came on December 31, 2010. 

Mars Phoenix

The Phoenix Mars Lander launched on August 4, 2007 (UTC) and landed on May 25, 2008. It studied the Martian arctic, searched for evidence of a habitable zone, and assessed the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.  

On July 31, 2008, NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander discovered water ice on Mars. The sample contained the same elements as water on earth. Elements we believe are important components of the building blocks for life. 

The Lander also observed snow falling from the clouds and found salts and minerals that suggest Mars ice had thawed in the distant past. The lander also exceeded its life expectancy. After five months, instead of 90 days, its mission ended November 2, 2008. NASA lost contact with the lander completely in 2010.

Curiosity

Artist's rendition of Curiosity Rover exploring Mars shows a collection of metal boxes on a platform with four wide all terrain wheels and a camera on a stalk above the over and a robotic arm extended to rock in front of the rover.

Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity, is twice as long and three times as heavy as the twins, Spirit and Opportunity. Launched on November 26, 2011, it landed on Mars on August 6, 2012 using precision landing techniques similar to the way the Space shuttle landings on Earth. Its landing inspired me to launch my blog series, Going to Mars Word-by-word.

This rover’s mission was to study martian rocks and soil in greater detail to understand the geologic processes that formed them and to study the atmosphere. Its design and power supply gave it an expected lifetime of a full martian year (687 Earth days.)

As of June 2022, Curiosity is still active.

Exploring Mars Today

According to NASA, there are five missions exploring Mars at present: Perseverance, MAVEN, Ingenuity, InSight, and Curiosity.

Other countries and space agencies have current missions on Mars as well. Some of these Mars missions are multiple nations and space agencies’s cooperative efforts.

For an international list of missions to Mars, see Space.com’s post or its brief history of Mars missions.

Going to Mars Word-by-Word

Illustration of a spaceship approaching the red planet, Mars, by Robert W. Burrows © 2013 for the post Exploring Mars on author Lynette M. Burrows' website

There are eight book reviews in this series. The first one reviews A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the last one is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Wouldn’t itl be fun to explore the series to see if new information gained from exploring Mars changes my review?

What new information have you learned about Mars in the past ten years?

Image Credits

Middle image Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last image by Robert W. Burrows © 2013.

The Man in the High Castle, a Review

Amazon Prime Video version

The Man in the High Castle is a book written by Phillip K. Dick and a television series (2015-2019) now on Amazon Prime Video. It is an American Dystopian alternate history thriller.  I’ve avoided reading the novel because it reportedly is similar to what I write and I didn’t want to inadvertently copy PKD’s work. After finishing If I Should Die, I took an opportunity to watch the series. I’m told the show is only loosely based on the novel. In this review I tried to keep spoilers at a minimum, but there is at least one. You may wish to skip that clearly marked section. 

Image shows a view of The Statue of Liberty and the New York Skyline. The statue wears a red Nazi sash and instead of a torch her upheld hand is in a German salute. The cover is an Amazon Original, The Man in the HIgh Castle.

The Set Up 

In The Man in the High Castle’s world, Giuseppe Zangara assassinated the United States President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. That sets up a situation where Axis Powers won World War III. Including Washington D.C. being turned into “The District of Contamination” by a Nazi atomic bomb.  

An aging Hitler still runs the Reich which rules Europe west of the Urals and the continent of Africa. It also occupies the portion of the United States that lies to the east of the Rocky Mountains, an area called the Greater Nazi Reich (GNR). Japan rules Asia and the section of the United States west of the Rockies, the Japanese Pacific States. The Rockies are a neutral zone. 

Image of the United States of America shows the eastern portion of the US in Red with the German cross over it. The rockies are gray, indicating the neutral zone. And everything west of the Rockies has a Rising Sun indicating the Japanese Pacific States as described in The Man from the HIgh Castle.

The story takes place in 1962 in locations in the United States and Germany. Former Americans in German and Japanese territories are attempting to adjust to their status as citizens of occupied territories as are the Occupiers who are all very far from their homes and bases of support.

The Plot

A major thread throughout the television program  (SPOILER ALERT) is the existence of reels of film that show an untold variety of outcomes of the war on parallel worlds. In some of the films the U.S. is victorious. In other films the outcomes are much worse than our story’s world. Some characters wish to protect and hide the films. They believe the information could help them free themselves from their occupation. Others characters want to destroy the films. And the Nazis scientists are experimenting with a way to move between the worlds. (END SPOILER ALERT).

There are many plot holes, impossible, and improbable situations. Once I got past the my mindset that the occupation of the U.S. couldn’t have happened in the way the story says, few of the holes and improbabilities bothered me. 

Be aware that there are cultural and historical  inaccuracies that could detract from your enjoyment if they are part of your mindset or culture. 

The Pacing and Sets

Overall, the story pacing held my interest. There is plenty of action and intrigue and danger. Warning: there are explosions and violent deaths, in my opinion they were handled pretty well. But if violence isn’t your thing, this isn’t the show for you.

The settings ranged from stark to opulent. Both the pacing and the sets (locations) worked well for me.

The Characters

The book cover for The Man in the High Castle has a female standing profile in the center with a Japanese man and a man in the uniform of a Reich officer flanking her. Behind them are two flags that represent the two occupied territories of the former United States of America.
The Man in the High Castle is available as an ebook, paperback, and audio book on Amazon and other retailers.

 The characters are diverse. There are multiple factions from underground rebels who seek to restore American freedom to former Americans being assimilated into their occupiers’ cultures. There are opportunists and there are sympathizers. Some have very clear loyalties. Some appear to switch sides. And some play all sides against each other. 

In this televised series, there are several interesting and strong female characters. And you know I liked that. 

What fascinated me the most about this show were the characters. Loyalties were divided, often within families. Betrayals and reversals and reversals of reversals happened. There were characters I grew to love who spiraled destructively and characters I hated that I grew to understand. For me, this is great story telling. 

The Man in the High Castle

The show was dropped by Amazon Prime after four seasons. I imagine production costs were reason enough but according to some sources there were “creative differences” also. 

I made a purposeful decision to not read the book before writing My Soul to Keep. Will I read the book? Absolutely, but I’ll still wait until after I’ve finished the Fellowship Dystopia series. There are enough similarities between the two stories that I don’t want to risk confusing myself. Do I think having watched the show will alter how I approach the third book in the series? I doubt it. In my opinion, there’s a huge difference between the foreign occupation in The Man in the High Castle and a take over from within like the one in the Fellowship Dystopia.

Also there’s a big difference between writing for television and writing a book. Besides with two books written, I’m pretty deeply immersed in the world of the Fellowship. Some of the critiques of the televised series will influence me in that I’ll try to avoid similar inaccuracies.

Do I recommend watching the show? If you love thrilling, alternate history with a science fictional bent…you will be hooked by the televised series of The Man in the High Castle.

Have you watched The Man in the High Castle? What did you think?

Image Credit: Middle image is by RedFoxJinx, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

First Lines from Other Worlds

I changed things up a bit for this First Line Friday post. First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. For these first lines from other worlds I include the first 45-55 words of each novel. When you read these first words, do you want to read more?


The cover of The City in the Middle of night is mostly black silhouette of city buildings against pink silhouettes of buildings against a yellow sky running perpendicularly down the open edge of the book.

Bianca walks toward me, under too much sky. The white-hot twilight makes a halo out of loose strands of her fine black hair. She looks down and fidgets, as though she’s trying to settle an argument with herself, but then she looks up and sees me and a smile starts …

The City in the Middle of the Night  by Charlie Jane Ander

The cover of Machine has a dark blue to black background with a lighter blue to white tree like structure dotted with lights--possibly representing neurons in the white space of your brain--definitely other worlds

I stood in the door and looked down.

Down wasn’t the right word, exactly. But it also wasn’t the wrong word. All directions were down from where I stood, and almost all of them were an infinitely long fall.

Machine: A White Space Novel By Elizabeth Bear

The cover of Tiger Honor shows the white outlines of a tiger againsg a blue star field with two planets in the background. In the foreground a young man kneels on one knee and looks up into the heavens and other worlds.

When the mail arrived, it should have been the best day of my life.

Mail—physical mail—came once a week at best. The Juhwang Clan of tiger spirits made our home on the world of Yonggi for the past several centuries. Our ties to the land dated back…

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee 

The cover of The Light Brigade has large typeface so the author's name and the title fill the cover's foreground, behind the letters is the non-gender specific soldier in armor standing in a white light that fades to a dark blue a symbol for other worlds

They said the war would turn us into light.

I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world. That’s what I told the recruiter. That’s what I told my first squad leader. It’s what I told every CO, and there were … a couple. And that’s what I’d tell myself, when …

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Cover of Afterland has the Author's name at the top in the center is a twig with four green leaves hanging down from it and continuing to end in a pink flower against a blue sky with white fluffy clouds a story from other worlds here on earth.

Look at me,” Cole says. “Hey.” Checking Miles’s pupils, which are still huge. Shock and fear and the drugs working their way of of his system. Scrambling to remember her first-aid training. Checklist as life buoy. He’s able to focus, to speak without slurring. He was groggy in the car, getting away. …

Afterland by Lauren Beukes 

A Reminder

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

If you liked those first lines, I hope you’ll love this one:

Cover of the Book Fellowship, a companion to the Fellowship Dystopia, has a deep brown background with rust brown Fellowship shield over which there is a yellow and orange 2-D church spire, in front of which the silhouette of a young man runs toward the camera. Other worlds sometimes happen on earth.

Fellowship.

One word and Ian Hobart’s world teetered into not safe.  The reporters’ voices fell, the remainder of their conversation now muted by the clack and ratchet and ding of their typewriters. 

Fellowship, a companion novel to the Fellowship Dystopia Series
by Lynette M. Burrows

Don’t forget, book two in the Fellowship Dystopia, If I Should Die, will be on preorder next month. Read book one before then. And watch this space for a sneak peek or two into the action-packed story of book two.

Other Worlds on Your TBR?

Did you enjoy these first lines from other worlds? You may also enjoy previous First Line Fridays.

Which of these books is now on your TBR list?

Strong Female Characters for First Line Friday

Many readers buy a book based on the first line. Do you? These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. This first line Friday post features recent science fiction with strong female characters.


 Iron Widow is an example of science fiction with strong female characters. The cover shows a Chinese woman from the back, half turned back toward the viewier with what looks like gigantic feathers in front of and behind her.

The Hundruns were coming. A whole herd of them, rumbling across the wilds, stirring up a dark storm of dust through the night. 

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Claw Resurgence is an example of science fiction with strong female characters. The cover shows a pale blue background with claw marks ripping through the background and dripping blood.

Wind-driven snow skittered past the tall windows of the Lawless City Hall, rattling at its aged panes as if seeking entry.

CLAW Resurgence by Katie Berry

An example of Science fiction with strong female characters, the cover of They call me princess shows a possibly steam powered machine coming through waves toward a mace holding woman warrior with her back to us

If I had known the banana split would be my last ever. I might have savored it longer.

They Call Me Princess (The Fallen World Book 8) by J. P. Chandler

The Grace Year cover shows the profile of a young woman in shades of pink on a pink background with a white illustration of a flower that's barely visible, you just know this is science fiction with strong female characters.

No one speaks of the grace year.

It is forbidden.

The Grace Year by Kim Ligget

The bald guy at the front door was the least impressive of the guards. 

CARDINAL: Book One of The Citadel Series by Riley E. Smith

Bags open, people. Power’s down. We’re doing it the old-fashioned way.”

Drained by Marc Daniel Acriche

Kayla Covington had been here before, but this time she was determined no one would die.

The Dark Side of Angels by Steve Hadden

Space is cruel to the human body. 

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

The six silver spheres atop their posts, one for each point on the hexagon that filled the center of the Arrival Room, spun with dizzying speed, and a bone-deep thrumming echoed throughout Earth’s Waystation.

Guardian of Shadows: A Nyx Fortuna Novel by Michelle Manus

The sun crested the horizon, and through the moist haze of early morning, crepuscular rays of light peeked around the silhouettes of massive stone pyramids and temples.

Sandstorm: The Legend of Adira by Monica Clare

Forgive me for a little self-promotion:

The giant bronze angel of death loomed over Miranda Clarke’s shoulder.

My Soul to Keep, The Fellowship Dystopia, Book One, by Lynette M. Burrows

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page (except if you buy one of my books). Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Like Fiction with Strong Female Characters?

Your Opinion is Important

After you finish reading a book, consider giving the book a star rating where you bought the book or on your favorite book list site. A star rating a sentence or two about what you liked or didn’t like about the book makes a difference. It helps other readers decide if they want to read the book, too. It may also help the author decide how to improve their storytelling. Thank you for for your patronage and support of authors. It keeps authors like me working to write more and better stories for your enjoyment.

Want to Read More?

Check out previous First Line Fridays posts. 

Did you enjoy this list of science fiction with strong female characters? You’ll put another enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below—

Which of these first lines spoke to you? Did you buy the book?

A Science Fiction First Lines Friday

First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online books. Today’s post features Science Fiction first lines. (And maybe a fantasy or two.) Are you hooked?


The cover for Joseph Nassise's book Eyes to See have a young man standing in an alley between tow brick buildings. He's got an electric blue haze around him and his entire eyes are that same blue. This SF & F First line is arresting.

I gave up my eyes in order to see more clearly.

 Eyes to See
(Jeremiah Hunt Book 1)
by Joseph Nassise

Cover image of Lightning Game is of a man looking over his shoulder and hovering in the air behind him is a larger than life face of a young blonde woman.

Rubin Campo stood in front of the small cabin made of mostly broken lumber his brothers and father had dragged or cut from the trees in the forest and pieced together. 

Lightning Game (A GhostWalker Novel Book 17) by Christine Feehan

Cover for the Eye of Elektron has a red-headed woman in the center wearing a off the shoulder metalic bodice and chain mail-like skirt, she has something in her hand that is causing swirls of yellow and red

Dawn knew death awaited her at the hour’s end. 

The Eye of Electron (The Sumrectian Series, Book 1)
by Leigh G. Wynn

Jane strained against the harness as the capsule shuddered around her, craning her neck for a better view of the ship they were hurtling toward. 

Fluency (Confluence Book 1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells

There were quite a few interesting things about Johnnie: replacing his left had was a golden claw, he had no scent detectable to any creature on Earth, and he was the most infamous mercenary in two out of three Confederate states.

Beyond the Last War: The Wayward Mercenary by Claude McKenna

No one could have possibly known what was truly in the container.

Europa Contagion
by Nicholas Thorp

Your name is Emma.”

Emma wiped the tears from her eyes.

Blue are the Hills by Lilly Piper

Charlotte knocked over her plastic model solar system toy when she heard her parents fighting again.

Brazen Planet (Tears of Venus) by Gayle Katz

I knew I was different the moment I awoke…or came online, as the Masters call it. 

Omega Force: Revolution (OF9) by Joshua Dalzelle

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More Science Fiction First Lines?

Did you enjoy this list of science fiction first lines? Check out previous First Line Friday posts. You’ll put an enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it?