I know he was jealous about Maya, but the book implied some political reason that wasn't ever explained, to my recollection.

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    Vague recollection says he was in cahoots with an ethnic group of colonists (Russian?) and John was blocking some of their proposals. It never really mattered to the plot in the end... as Frank found out when it all went to hell, none of his ladder climbing and scheming gave him the slightest edge in just surviving.
    – Radhil
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 23:35
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    It was the Arabs whom Frank was in tight with and they disliked John because of a perceived anti-Arab bias on his part. But I don't think that had anything to do with why Frank killed John. They just provided him a convenient scapegoat and tool to use. His reasons were almost entirely personal, from what I recall, and not just because of Maya. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 1:44

2 Answers 2


There were two main reasons, I think. First, Frank and John had political differences in how they viewed the proper evolution of humanity on Mars. Oversimplifying greatly, John wanted to leave Earth behind and create a New Mars Human while Frank felt that this was utopian nonsense and that Mars must engage politically with Earth to assure a good future for Mars. Secondly, Frank was jealous of John. John was the First Man on Mars -- Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Chuck Yeager combined -- as well as being a charismatic leader. John stood politically in Frank's way.

Oh, yes. There's also the love triangle with Maya Toitovna...

Which reason predominated? I think that's something each reader needs to decide on their own, as Frank is a decidedly complex character in a complex situation. KSR is a good enough writer that he doesn't tell us the answer.

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    Good answer! KSR really doesn't give that away at all.. My opinion is this-- the assassination happens early in the book, of course. Later, though, we learn that sometime before the assassination John manages to call up a summit on Olympus Mons that even Hiroko shows up. To me, this is the moment in time that Frank realises John has a much stronger influence as Leader in Mars and thus decides that John must be taken out of the picture. I don't believe that feelings for Maya was the driving force.
    – lsdr
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 21:33

Getting back together with Toitovna was a nice bonus, but it was explicitly a political assassination that Chalmers thought was going to make him the primary moulder of the emerging Martian society in its first formative years, decades... possibly even centuries.

Frank Chalmers had had Plans With A Capital P for Mars since before the US first announced the Rust Eagle landing, and he allowed John Boone to take the symbolic victory of being The First Man on Mars in order to become the leader of the US Contingent to the First Hundred.

These plans were frustrated when Boone was able to use his influence to weasel his way back into First Hundred, ignoring the then-rule that people would only ever make the one trip to Mars due to radiation exposure. During the first years on Mars, Boone was seen as the unofficial leader by the population - given they were all literally following in his footsteps by being on Mars at all, this seems fairly natural. All of Chalmers's political nous was worthless when he had to go up against Boone's charisma and how universally beloved he was. As word of his death spread throughout Nicosia:

The streets glinted as if stars had fallen to the pavement. People stood in clumps, silent, stunned by the news. Frank Chalmers made his way through them, feeling their stares, moving without thought toward the platform at the top of town; and as he walked he said to himself, Now we'll see what I can do with this planet.

Chalmers tricked a group of young Arabs into believing that Boone was going to prevent a mosque from being built on Phobos and stoked that into a willingness to murder the most beloved man on Mars. He incited a riot by throwing bricks through windows in the street. Honestly, it's amazing that he got away with it given how beloved Boone was by all. Guess he was lucky that the murderers suffered an "unfortunate accident" that night.

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