There is life on Mars. But could it end life on Earth?
It’s 2025 and the Earth is damaged. Irreparably.
The quest for scientific solutions is hampered by commercial greed, political infighting and a mass fear that whatever we do, we can only make things worse.
Then a miracle. Scientists at the Chinese Martian base have discovered the ‘Chi’ – an active micro-organism several kilometres below the surface. Very active. Left undisturbed for 2 billion years, it has super evolved and is able to swap DNA at will, maximising its survival whatever the environment.
Against all protocol the ‘Chi’ is brought secretly back to Earth. Where it is stolen, and accidentally plunged into the pacific Ocean. Only a few weeks later, a giant slick of plankton is found growing at an exponential rate. It is sucking the seas dry of life. And the question must be asked. Who is colonizing whom?
The wonder of Arthur C. Clarke. The claustrophobic tension of Alien. The science of Richard Dawkins. All taken to the extreme…
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‘Looks set to inject a welcome dose of sophistication into the sf genre and attract readers who normally wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole’
‘Better hard science fiction writing than any British author since Clarke’
‘The most exciting of Britain’s new-edge writers’
Michael Marshall Smith
A brief article about the inspiration for The Secret of Life
A few years ago, the front page of just about every newspaper in the world had the same real-life science fictional headline: Life on Mars! Not some ancient canal-building civilisation, nor even hardy lichens hugging the sunny side of some deep equatorial canyon, but a scattering of tiny carbonate specks with associated smears of organic material deep inside a very old rock, and what could be the fossilised remains of incredibly tiny bacteria.
The rock was a meteorite, designated ALH84001, collected in the Allen Hills region of Antarctica. A major asteroid impact knocked it off the surface of Mars 16 million years ago; 13,000 years ago it intersected Earth's orbit, and fell onto Antarctica; in 1984 its small black potato shape was spotted during a NASA sampling project. Then microscopic examination spotted ovoid and elongated shapes in and on carbonate deposits inside ALH84001, similar to certain types of bacteria found in deep bore holes.
Life on Mars!
After all the fuss died down, closer examination suggested that the fossil 'bacteria' might be no more inorganic crystalline deposits, and that the organic deposits in ALH84001 might be due to contamination after the meteorite hit the Antarctic icecap.
The jury is still out.
But suppose that there once was life on Mars. Four billion years ago, inner solar system bodies, including Mars, were undergoing intense meteoritic bombardment. Perhaps at that time many life-bearing Martian meteorites fell to Earth. Perhaps that life flourished here, while life on Mars retreated to a last stronghold. What would happen if, four billion years later, astronauts brought back Martian life which shares a common ancestor with life on Earth?
That was the seed of The Secret of Life, told from the point of view of a scientist who has chosen to work outside the mainstream of the scientific establishment. I know a little bit about scientists and their culture -- I was a research scientist for more than twenty years before I became a full-time writer -- and it has always seemed to me that this important segment of human endeavour has been under- represented in fiction. The novel is set a little way into the future, and travels to Mars and back, but every bit of it is as real as I could make it. I hope you enjoy the ride.
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Book Description VOYAGER, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0006513301