Below are two summaries of my novel, “The War for Mars United.” They both contain SPOILERS of roughly the first half of the novel. They do NOT cover the novel’s surprising second half.

The first is the one-paragraph summary that you would find on a back-cover jacket. The second is a longer version of the same information.


The colonists of Mars must, against all odds, defeat the armies of Earth. In 2154, Mars United’s seditious General Rhodes breaks away and forms a Mars confederacy allied with Earth imperialists, who send a mothership to enslave and kill the loyalists of Mars United. Embattled Mars United Prime Minister Norine Maciel must manage squabbling, corporate-stooge Senators as well as her two headstrong soldier-daughters, who have taken aspects of her personality to oppositional, and dangerous, extremes. The warlike Martina, seeking personal revenge against Rhodes, falls into his trap. The pacifistic Julia goes AWOL, seeking a secret commune inside Olympus Mons managed by Aquinas, the so-called “Wizard of Mars” who terraformed Mars with a machine that activated Mars’ volcanoes. Will Norine somehow save the universe’s only known extra-terrestrial democracy? Will Martina overcome her personal demons and Rhodes’ wily machinations? Will Julia’s loyalty to a pacifist third-party result in cataclysm – or provide a solution no one had previously imagined?


Our story opens in the New Jerusalem mall, where Martina, a tall, athletic 31-year-old blonde, is shopping with her 9-year-old daughter Peoria for holo-rings – the 22nd-century equivalent of smartphones, projecting customized tablet-screens. Holos are all over the mall, blaring anti-government messages, half from radical pacifists, the other half from warlike libertarians. Watching Martina and Peoria, we learn that the Big 12 corporations own all of the stores in the mall; Wazgretco owns the Great Person Store, where Martina engages in a contretemps with the sales clerk upon learning that very little of their merchandise features women. More than anything, Martina wants to matter enough to history to be featured on one of the store’s future T-shirts; her problem is that she has no idea how that will happen. On the other side of the mall, a separatist yelling “Free Mars!” attacks Martina’s husband with a bomb that kills him and maims her son.

At the time of the bomb attack, Julia is playing bo-ball; Julia is 22, dark-haired, lithe, and shorter than her sister. Bos are two-meter sticks with unusual magnetic properties – enhanced by Mars’ unusual manmade magnetic field – and bo-ball is a sort of lacrosse-basketball hybrid that Julia excels at. After crushing another team, Julia and her boyfriend Kenyatta abscond to her dorm room, where, during a lovemaking session, Kenyatta reveals that he is becoming more obsessed with Olympus Mons and the possibility that Petraeus Aquinas, the so-called “Wizard of Mars,” lives underground somewhere nearby. Julia is skeptical, yet has nurtured a crush on Aquinas since high school volcanology; certainly she agrees with his acolytes’ sites and their pacifism. Julia isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life, though she worries about losing Kenyatta in more than one sense – his parents are Binto miners, and New Jerusalem is running out of white-collar jobs, so even smart Bintons like Kenyatta may have to return to the mines – a Mars-wide problem that the separatist forces, led by Rhodes, are currently exploiting.

Prime Minister Norine Maciel, 60, was an American Olympian martial-artist who failed to medal in 2112, but with her good looks, she won something better, becoming a part of Uniparney’s first generation of performers on Mars. Norine once hoped to follow Bruce Lee and have her tombstone feature a martial art that she invented – in her case, the first in .38g – now she’s simply hoping to prevent her tombstone from saying “LOST MARS.” Norine seems to spend most of her time brokering arguments between Mars’ Senators, each of whom has his/her own narrow interests that conflict with others, each representing a consolidated industry/district with good reason to invest on Mars – Facrogle is tech, Uniparney is entertainment, Dupowme is construction, McPepsanto is food, Texrom is energy, and so on. Rhodes, the Senator of Binto (mining), is now in open rebellion, and Applokia (tech devices, like bos and holo-rings) and Airboeck (larger devices, basically transportation) are thought to be close to joining Binto as part of Greater Melas. After the bomb attack and after considerable deliberation about sims and percentages – on Mars in 2154, every suggested action is met with data about sims and percentages – Norine decides to put down Rhodes’ rebellion. Martina, as one of the army’s elite squadron – they call themselves the Ten-Percenters – brings her cadet-sister Julia under her wing as they battle the rebels’ air force in Valles Marineris, destroy the rival air base outside Binto City, and then suppress the rebels on the ground downtown. Mars United eventually wins, but at the cost of thousands of lives as well as Julia’s innocence.

Days later, Norine’s speech at Martina’s husband’s funeral is interrupted by the news that the Asian Alliance has decided to send a mothership to give control of Mars to Airboeck, Applokia, and Binto. No one in Norine’s inner circle believes that the A.A. will be so benign; instead, they predict that the A.A. will kill or make slaves of everyone in the government and the other nine corporations – if they don’t swear fealty first. One Senator notes that the mothership is basically invulnerable – in the unlikely event that any part of it is disabled, there are sufficient redundancies to compensate. Norine begs NATO, Earth’s other major remaining large alliance, to honor their treaties and help Mars United. NATO’s problem is that it has only 11 motherships to the A.A.’s 13, and to send one in pursuit would provoke a world war on Earth. One of Mars’ Senators argues that should NATO “cede” Mars to the A.A., NATO will lose a coming war anyway, but NATO is unmoved and refuses to help. Despite hue and cry from some Senators, Norine announces mandatory registration and conscription for all able-bodied Mars citizens.

Kenyatta tells Julia that he is escaping to find Petraeus Aquinas, whom he believes to be living underground near Olympus Mons. Julia isn’t so sure, but she wants to help Kenyatta at least get to the site on the other side of the planet. Norine warns her younger daughter that Aquinas is dead and that rumors of a pacifistic commune are just that, but Julia refuses to believe her and steals a plane from Armstrong Air Base. Martina is about to shoot her down, but Norine orders her to stand down, and Julia flies her boyfriend and three other Aquinasians 5300 kilometers to the Arizona-sized volcano. They cruise the top of the 60km-wide ice-rimmed caldera, look down at the lava bed many miles below, and cheer “fire and ice!” They land near the site of the ED-210 that perished, supposedly along with Aquinas and acolytes, 17 years before. They commune with nature in Alaska-like temperatures. While bathing at a river, Kenyatta admits to Julia that if they ever find Aquinas he’s going to try to convince him to return to New Jerusalem – only the Wizard of Mars can unite the planet now. Julia is hurt that Kenyatta believes that she thinks so little of her own mother. Julia resolves to head home when they return to their parked plane, a kilometer away from the river – but when they return, the jet is gone.

Norine and Rhodes argue over videophone before the worlds; both claim to be the true heir of Abraham Lincoln, while claiming that the other is the true heir of Sir Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist who strip-mined Africa. Norine can rely on the loyalty of Senator Jodie Weaver, the strong-willed liberal Senator for Uniparney; Senator Samir Samoset, the pacifistic tech-savvy Senator for Facrogle; Senator Florian Falke, the ultra-hawkish, Teutonic Senator for Texrom; and probably Senator Holly Guen-hye, the calm, pragmatic Senator for Pharealth. But she’s slowly losing everyone else, including the other Senators, her daughter Martina, as well as her husband who thinks she shouldn’t have let Julia go.

Martina, also furious that Julia was allowed to go AWOL, insists that Rhodes must be killed so that statues are never raised in his honor. Martina recklessly searches on her own for Rhodes in the New Jerusalem ghetto, a bastion of separatist support. Martina gets taken prisoner by Azalea, who is Rhodes’ lieutenant and a martial-artist extraordinaire. Azalea fights and lectures Martina in equal measure, infuriating Martina to the point where she loses her warrior’s composure…

To find out what happens to Julia, Martina, Norine, and democracy and corporations on Mars, please read “The War for Mars United,” serialized here every Friday in 2017.