Earth’s closest neighbor has inspired a lot of fiction over the years — so much so, that it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re looking for suggestions, then you’ve come to the right place.
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Golden Age of science-fiction birthed a lot of Martian fiction. Unfortunately, a lot of it is out of print and hard to find. The good news is that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess Mars isn’t. Perhaps the most representative of the so-called “sword and planet” sub-genre, A Princess of Mars is the story of John Carter: an Earth man who finds romance and adventure among the ruins of a dying Martian civilization. Like Burroughs’ Tarzan novels, A Princess of Mars is still very much readable, despite its advanced age. Some things are built to last, I suppose, and Burroughs’ best-known novels are among them. That said, skip the rest of the series unless you’re head over heels in love with Burroughs’ work. Otherwise, it gets a bit repetitive.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars is an undisputed modern classic, and is a great recommendation for anyone who enjoys their science-fiction on the hard side. For some, Earth’s first colony on Mars is grounds for celebration. For others, keeping the planet in its natural state is a cause worth dying for. Robinson continues his story through two sequels.
Andy Weir’s The Martian is another great recommendation for hard sci-fi readers. When astronaut Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars, he stretches his scientific training to its very limits in a gamble to stay alive, and hopefully, let Earth know he’s still alive. While The Martian is indeed a hard science-fiction read, I think it’s important to emphasize just how approachable and fun this book is. Watney is an unlikely hero, and this is an inspirational and, at times, hilarious novel.
Book 1 of the Red Rising Saga
Maybe hard science-fiction isn’t your thing,. Perhaps you’re looking for an adventurous tale of courage and heart. If so, grab Pierce Brown’s incredible novel Red Rising. Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. He works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. But Darrow and his fellow Reds have been betrayed: Humanity reached the surface generations ago, and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Hungry for justice, Darrow hatches a plan to infiltrate the highest ranks of Martian society and secure freedom for his people.
Robert J. Sawyer
Equal parts science-fiction and mystery novel, Robert J. Sawyer’s Red Planet Blues is the story of Alex Lomax, a detective working in the Martian frontier: a place where prospectors dig for the ultimate prize: fossilized alien life. Earthly collectors go gaga for the stuff, and competition is stiff. It’s the kind of place where people go missing all the time — and others would prefer that they stay that way.
Fleeing an Earth that is all but destroyed, humanity settles on Mars: a place where crystalline cities built by a vanished race rise above seas of dust. Humanity came to conquer, but will instead be seduced and even subjugated by the remnants of Mars’ mysterious past. You can’t go wrong with Ray Bradbury, and The Martian Chronicles is a fine place to start with his work.
Curious about other sci-fi/fantasy subgenres? Check out all of our So You Want To Read lists – we’re adding new ones all the time!
Edgar Rice Burroughs