6

I read this story (probably a novel, but maybe a short story or novella) in the mid-1990s or earlier. I have an uncertain memory that it may have been a sequel or the second story in a series. I also have a vague memory that passing out from g-forces during a space launch was expected, so the story may pre-date manned space flight.

The story was set during the early stages of terraforming Mars. The project involved plants that were genetically engineered to produce a lot of oxygen. The first part of the story involved a fire breaking out in a forest of these oxygen-laden plants and the protagonists being trapped in their habitat in the middle of the forest and having to dig a refuge from the fire using makeshift tools like chair legs.

As a result of the fire, a representative from Earth who was to evaluate the terraforming project, but who was already prejudiced against it, concluded that he had evidence that the project should be cancelled. He returned to Earth to give his report, and the protagonists followed him to plead their case. But they found themselves crippled and wheelchair-bound on Earth after so long living in the lighter gravity of Mars, and the idea that all the early colonists would be similarly crippled added emotional depth to the case they presented.

EDIT:

It was not the Mars Trilogy or The Sands of Mars, which tended to swamp my Googling efforts.

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    en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_trilogy is a partial match. Controversial terraforming, but no fire. – FuzzyBoots Sep 14 at 19:40
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    @FuzzyBoots Thanks, but no, it was definitely not the Mars trilogy, which I have read. (The Mars trilogy and a few other famous works swamped my Googling efforts to identify the story.) – Senex Sep 14 at 19:55
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    A couple of the story elements you describe ( passing out during launch, genetically modified plants ) appear in Clarke's 'The Sands Of Mars' – Martin Goldsack Sep 14 at 20:24
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    @Martin Goldsack Thanks, but it was not The Sands of Mars -- that was another one of the works that turned up during my Googling. – Senex Sep 14 at 21:04
7

Sounds very much like Patrick Moore's 1950s juvenile The Voices of Mars.

I no longer have a copy, but iirc the book ends with the hero collapsing from the effects of Earth gravity while addressing a conference and rebutting the evidence of the critics. He wakes in hospital to be told that his collapse swung the vote in their favour.

I think one of the opponents of the project had a Russian-sounding name. The hero would have been Maurice Gray.

Istr that oxygen-producing plants were mentioned, but can't swear as to whether it was in this book or another in the same series. Iirc their official name was something ending in "Whittonia" after their inventor or discoverer, but in conversation they were referred to as "gas plants".

There is a short review, with a good picture of the cover, by Oxfam GB at

https://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/books/science-fiction-and-fantasy/the-voices-of-mars-by-patrick-moore-1960-hd_100937904

and another at wiki.

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    I can confirm, having just checked my copy of Voices of Mars, that it does include the oxygen plants being on fire. The Maurice Gray series comprises Mission to Mars (1955), The Domes of Mars (1956), The Voices of Mars (1957), Peril on Mars (1958) and Raiders of Mars (1959) – Martin Goldsack Sep 15 at 16:47
  • Also The Domes of Mars - in between "Mission" and "Voices". – Mike Stone Sep 15 at 19:44
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    From the details in the answer and the linked review, and the confirmation from @MartinGoldsack about the oxygen plant fire, it seems very probable that it was indeed The Voices of Mars. – Senex Sep 16 at 9:10

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