Ares Express is Ian McDonald’s marvelous and long awaited sequel to Desolation Road. Mars is still the setting, but a Mars far in the future from that in Desolation Road. The railroad is still key, but the story line is fresh. It revolves around the person of Sweetness Octave Glorious Honeybun Asiim 12th, her (mis)adventures, and an unforgettable supporting cast.
Sweetness has an ethereal shadow who she’s always believed was the spirit of her dead twin. The truth is at the root of Sweetness’ mission to find Devastation Harx.
Devastation Harx, a metaphor for evil in a person representative of every false prophet that ever garnered a following, is appropriately devious and conscience free, stealing others’ souls and property from his airship over Mars.
Grandmother Taal, who’s successful betting in a game of chance took 15 years off her age, is another character of note. It is she who heads out from the Ares Express to bring back Sweetness, whose ill planned escape from that train set the story in motion.
There are also cameo, but plot necessary, visits by Dr. Alamantando and the Green Man, both introduced in Devastation Road.
The sensual undertones throughout the book, the colorful characters, the wit, the Martian background, the fusion fueled trains, and the ongoing battle of good vs. evil all contribute to making this a great read. Thank you, Mr. McDonald!