Defining this novel just science fiction would not be entirely correct, since the story is realistic in every aspect of science. Zubrin has not invented any technology that does not already exist at the time of the writing of this work, i.e. more than 10 years ago. This makes “First Landing” a work halfway between a novel and an essay, where a story of pure invention is used to provide the general public with a considerable amount of information both on Mars and on the state of the art of aerospace technology that would be able to bring us up to there.
Obviously the story is set in the future, which unfortunaltely has already passed for us, and it is still science “fiction” (in particular hard science fiction), not because we are talking about space travel and so on, but because it illustrates the actual feasibility through a fiction (invented) story.
On the other hand we are talking about Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society and always involved in allowing mankind to land on the Red Planet with the intention to colonize it. His opinion is certainly optimistic, but this novel is primarily a propaganda tool for his organization (the appendix is proof of this), in order to develop an interest in achieving a goal that still seems far away. Zubrin shows us that in fact it is not. What is missing is only the will to achieve it for a countless number of reasons, including many political ones. This aspect is in fact partly covered in the novel.
Personally, I am among those who would like to see mankind conquer and colonize Mars, while I am still alive, and of course I realize that our world has many urgent needs and that a project of this magnitude must inevitably be carried out with the right timing, but I’m also persuaded that bringing us to Mars would help fix some of these Earthling needs. That’s why I appreciate the work of Zubrin, because without people like him, this dream would be even farther.
The story itself, without considering its implications, is not bad at all. It has held my breath, so I’ve read it really quickly, to know how it would end. The pace is fast. The characters must immediately and until the end face situations of high tension. They are well defined and consistent. The dialogues capture you.
If you really want to find a negative element, it is the lack of real drama, because in the end everything is resolved one way or another, and this is the only aspect of little realism of the story. In reality, not everything can be resolved, especially when the narrative extends over such a long period in such a dangerous place. There is a similar reality in which all went well in the end, that is the story of Apollo 13 (defined as the greatest successful failure of NASA), but the situation in that case was much more “simple”: in the end they were going to the Moon and they were not on a planet hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth.
Although this, it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting books I’ve read so far and it deserves full marks.
First Landing on Amazon.com.