Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus on Mars by Philip Jose Farmer

Synopsis(from the back cover): As billions of people around the globe sit glued to their television sets in the year 2015, Richard Orme, captain of the first expedition to land on Mars, takes another giant step for mankind. His first words, as he steps out of the landing craft onto the red planet, are transmitted to Earth minutes later: "Christopher Columbus, you should be here." Perhaps he was. Someone has been here. A spaceship sits half-buried under the red dust and heavy boulders. Nearby, there's a tunnel door. Richard Orme and his crew, dragged into the tunnel by Martians, enter a strange subterranean world where Martians live in caverns in a hollowed out Mars, a world where Martians pay homage to a sunlike globe-floating high above their cities of the interior. Orme thought they were sun worshippers. But there is a man who dwells within the flaming orb. And these people call him "Jesus". And the man they called "Jesus" would go back to Earth. He would be labeled "the Anti-Christ." And Richard Orme asked himself. Would history repeat itself...once more?

With the death of Philip Jose Farmer on February 25th, 2009 I thought it would be appropriate to review some Farmer books this year. I made a trip to the bookstore and found a copy of Jesus on Mars. I have read some Farmer stories but do not remember seeing this book. Just from reading the synopsis it looks like this one could have caused quite a stir when it appeared.

When Orme and his crew are captured, they find a thriving civilization under the surface of Mars. The society is a mix of Krsh and Jews taken from Earth. Together they have formed a society based on Mosaic laws. The crew has mixed reactions to the revelation that Jesus lives in a glowing orb on Mars. He makes regular appearances to perform miracles, etc. This is hard for the crew to accept. They can see that this society seems to have a lower crime rate and is peaceful. It is completely different from the society they know on Earth. Earth still has problems with war and crime. Unity among the people of Earth is a dream.

Through the course of the story we read how Orme deals with the revelations about Jesus. Jesus meets with him and offers an alternate explanation to what Orme has been led to believe. Jesus returns to Earth with a Martian army to bring his gifts to our world.

This was a very interesting look at how one event can change a society. I liked the fact that Farmer does not preach. He presents various options and lets the characters(and the readers) decide for themselves. Too many times in a story like this, the author tells you what to believe. I prefer Farmer's method.

Jesus on Mars is similar to his Dayworld series in that it showcases the changes a society goes through when a major change is introduced. I have read too many stories where society was basically unchanged by a major event. One of the reasons I liked The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson was because of the way he showed the effects on the world of introducing the chronoliths.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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