The best books about the colonization of Mars

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the colonization of Mars and why they recommend each book.

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Moving Mars

By Greg Bear,

Book cover of Moving Mars: A Novel

What if you have an established culture on Mars in 2171 that wants to be independently governed? What if Mars develops a powerful new technology linking human brains to the most advanced AI ever built, giving them almost magical powers of teleportation? I like this book because it’s another great example of how to make advanced technologies and social developments believable through a small number of character perspectives. Arthur C. Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and I appreciate how this novel was able to accomplish that. As a social scientist, I also appreciate the political aspects of this world as shown through the female lead, who starts as a young student protestor for Martian independence and evolves into a seasoned politician.

Who am I?

I read every science fiction novel I could get when I was a kid. My worldview was shaped by Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and other SF novelists. I want my readers to feel that same “sense of wonder.” I was fortunate to have been exposed to these big ideas early on because they got me interested in artificial intelligence, space colonization, and Big Science – resulting in my computer science work at NASA-Ames Research Center in the 1980s. My fiction and computer games also draw on these concepts, including my hard SF novels: The Forge of Mars, The Digital Dead (sequel to The Forge of Mars), and Prometheus Road, among others. 

I wrote...

The Forge of Mars

By Bruce Balfour, PhD,

Book cover of The Forge of Mars

What is my book about?

In 2054, NASA discovers alien ruins buried in a Martian canyon at the site called Vulcan’s Forge. NASA needs to figure out who left them, and what they might mean to Earth, so they send AI and nanotech researcher Tau Wolfsinger. Brilliant and intuitive, he’s as much an outsider at NASA as he has been everywhere else.

What Tau doesn’t know is that the Martian ruins aren’t the first of their kind. The others are in the hands of the Davos Group, a shadowy international organization whose members have been hiding similar artifacts for decades, trying to unlock their secrets. Tau has sworn that his talents will not be put to military use, but dangerous people are watching him now, and they do not intend to be stopped.

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Red Mars

Red Mars is by far the best Martian colonisation story I have read. In 2027, one hundred scientists land on the surface of Mars, intent on terraforming its frozen wastes. Humanity’s future depends on colonising our solar system, yet the American and Russian teams diverge from the start.

Red Mars is incredibly rich in character and perspective, scientifically credible, and driven by politics. It brings together the best and worst in humanity. I’m on my second paperback copy of this book because I read the first one so many times it came apart. Most of the ‘First Hundred’ have their own story; in my opinion, any population or colonisation book needs a diverse cast. My only disappointment is humanity hasn’t set foot on Mars yet.

Who am I?

There were 3.7 billion people on Earth when I was born. By November 2022, there will be 8 billion. I am fascinated and terrified by this growth. I love stories that address this issue head-on, be it colonisation of other planets, compulsory euthanasia, or uploading consciousness into machines. When I started writing, I didn’t realise how I was bringing these themes together—I was writing a book I’d love to read. Now I can see those influences, and I am grateful for the authors who have shaped my thinking and my work.

I wrote...


By J.C. Gemmell,

Book cover of Tionsphere

What is my book about?

Forty years from now, the collapse of the Antarctic ice causes a sixty-metre rise in sea level, threatening our survival. Humanity’s solution is a technical marvel: the construction of concentric-spheres encircling the Earth. For centuries, the construction sphere is impossible to fill, but now, almost a thousand years after its completion, it has reached capacity, and its systems are on the brink of collapse.

Tionsphere is the story of people trying to make sense of their lives in an overpopulated, technology-dependent, massively interconnected world. When one young man slips away from his assigned life, discoveries are made that threaten the system and human life itself.

Green Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Green Mars

In this future, humanity needs to terraform Mars to provide a second home to a swelling population. The Mars Trilogy follows a group of scientists and astronauts, who gain extended lifetimes through a scientific breakthrough; this device enables us to follow the same characters through more than one normal active career span. 

My favourite book is Green Mars, because as a tree surgeon, I am fascinated by the methods shown of planting miniature trees and other plants, adapted from Nordic and mountainous shrubs. The people are experimenting with frontier lifestyles using available materials, and experimenting on adapting humans to the planet. Big business and inter-planetary politics keep raising their heads, as in any colonisation effort. And a few holdout scientists are saying that Mars is beautiful, precious, and unique, and we should study the red planet as it is, not terraform it.

Who am I?

I’m proud to be Irish, from a long heritage of storytellers and poets. Science fiction grabbed me from the first Asimov books I found, and I see the genre as an exploration of possibilities. I volunteer at SF Cons, including Dublin’s Worldcon in 2019. My profession is tree surgery, with an early apprenticeship in demolition, all of which has brought me to interesting places. I also love horses and became a national standard showjumper. I’ve qualified in multimedia journalism and ecology. My novels explore the past, present, and future. I write crime, science fiction, romance, and YA stories, including the Irish Lockdown series about young people during the Pandemic.

I wrote...

Dining Out Around The Solar System

By Clare O'Beara,

Book cover of Dining Out Around The Solar System

What is my book about?

A Dublin hacker teams up with a London reporter. The future of journalism… is dangerous.

Irish hacker Donal and Cockney-Jamaican Myron form a crack team at news zine London’s Eye. In their future, Londoners are recruited to mine the asteroids, using Stansted as a spaceport for antigrav shuttles. British Space Mines has leverage over the UK Government and resents investigative reporters. London’s basic jobs are filled by arrivals from other planets in our Solar System, which were all found to be inhabited. The immigrants also run ethnic restaurants, where Donal, a literary writer and secret hacker, and Myron, a confident miner’s son, pick up some classic scoops along with their meals. Crime, property deals, politics, and giant corporations form the background to these adventures.

The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury's masterful collection is less a look at how to solve the problem of visiting and colonizing our neighboring planet and more a look at how such an enterprise will affect humans as people. Not only will noble and brave humans go to Mars, but humans with selfish desires. Humans will bring memories of their hometowns and lost loves. Humans will bring their conflicts, and there is a real danger they'll do harm to Mars in the long run. While the book focuses on Mars, Bradbury imagines exploration of other worlds in the solar system. The book comes from a time when we thought there might be canal-building Martians, but that tells us something about ourselves as well.

Who am I?

After watching the moon landings as a child, I've long wondered when humans would visit a world beyond the moon and what that would be like. This led me to explore novels that imagine space travel. What's more, I pursued a career in astronomy so I could do my part to explore worlds beyond the Earth. Exploring the solar system and worlds beyond our solar system raises many questions. Some are practical, like how do we get there? Some involve what we'll learn and how the experience of visiting these worlds will change us. The books I recommend explore these themes from several different perspectives.

I wrote...

The Solar Sea

By David Lee Summers,

Book cover of The Solar Sea

What is my book about?

In the year 2074, Jonathan Jefferson became the last human to set foot on the planet Mars. Nineteen years later, Natalie Freeman violated presidential orders and brokered peace in the Middle East. The year is now 2098. Thomas Quinn discovers particles near Saturn that could provide unlimited energy to Earth. The Quinn Corporation builds a solar sail spacecraft commanded by Jefferson and Freeman to investigate. Along the way, they stop at Mars and Jupiter and find wonders and dangers beyond their imagination. Step aboard the Solar Sail Aristarchus and sail the solar sea.

In the Shadow of Ares

By Thomas L. James, Carl C. Carlsson,

Book cover of In the Shadow of Ares

When planetary scientists study Mars, we characterize resources and—distantly and coldly, visualize how those resources might be used someday. Yet you can’t truly understand a place until you have lived there. This book invites us to live on Mars by following the troubles of Amber, a teenager growing up in a remote pressurized trailer with her larger-than-life father. What are her goals and talents? What does she worry about every day? Who does she love, hate, and strive to understand? Since Mars is all she has ever known, she struggles to relate to settlers who carry old-Earth baggage around with them. Mars is new and exciting! Getting inside Amber’s head lets us get inside our own. We can never think like Amber, but we can try.

Who am I?

Growing up on a small farm, my brother and I listened to crudely recorded Star Trek episodes. We didn’t have much, but our imaginations gave us infinity. Then life happened. To reclaim childhood wonders after losing myself in a long tech research career at Bell Labs, I transitioned into planetary science. Now I ‘live in space,’ but remotely, through cold machines. What will the future hold for people who actually live on other worlds, touching and smelling alien soil and solving alien challenges in their thoroughly alien lives? When I write, I dream, understand (sometimes), and strive to pass the experience on to new generations of readers and dreamers.

I wrote...

Shadows of Medusa

By Brian Enke,

Book cover of Shadows of Medusa

What is my book about?

Welcome to the Medusae Fossae region on Mars! Mystery and intrigue surround three brave explorers as they plan to visit another world. Nothing on the mission is quite what it appears to be, including themselves. Will minor disagreements escalate into violence or murder? Or can they work together to overcome their greatest challenge, the unforgiving planet? Mars holds many secrets, and their next mistake could be their last. This powerful, hard-hitting science fiction novel teases the hope and promise of feasible space settlement in the near future as seen through the eyes of its author, a veteran planetary scientist and Mars mission planner. Since Mars is humanity’s gateway to the galaxy, sequels will escalate the rewards of success and penalties of failure substantially.

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