Tag Archives: Arthur Upfield

“Green Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson

After swearing off Robinson’s Mars trilogy because the books are too long, I jumped only 6 weeks later into Green Mars. Red Mars ended with a failed attempt by the Martian colony to “liberate” itself from earth.

Green Mars takes place roughly a generation later with many of the same characters. Mars has been altered drastically, and it’s exploitation as a source of strategic minerals is galloping along. But there’s an underground of rebels, including Mars born children and non-conformists of all ages. The books end with a deus ex machine plot twist which isn’t worthy of good literature.

Once again, Robinson spends an inordinate amount of time describing the geography of Mars. It’s interesting to me that he can picture the planet in so much detail, but he writes on for paragraph after paragraph, page after page.

I thought about other authors who put lots of descriptive geography into their books. One is Arthur Upfield, who wrote the Inspector Napoleon Bonoparte Mystery series, which is located in Australia and ran to 20 books. His stories, taking place at varied locations, are greatly enhanced by his descriptions of terrain. Upfield makes me want to get to Australia as soon as possible. His books are not long. The geographic descriptions are tucked in quite succinctly.

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The Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Mysteries by Arthur Upfield

I’ve been on a re-reading jag, and this series, published between 1930 and 1963, was a pleasure to revisit. If you are a mystery fan, check out Arthur Upfield. His novels will also appeal to those who love

  • Anthropology
  • Geography/geology/ecology
  • Travel (Australia)

The books I re-read were

  • The Mountains Have a Secret
  • Sinister Stones
  • The Bushman Who Came Back

What is a man named Napoleon Bonaparte doing in Australia? Upfield’s detective hero is (in the words of his time), a half breed, son of an aboriginal woman and a European father, raised and educated to take full advantage of the wisdom of two highly divergent cultures. The capstone of his education was a three year period when he “went bush”, living off the land and becoming an initiated member of his mother’s tribe.

The interactions between these two cultures sets the framework for Upfield’s plots. The stunning, strange Australian landscape provides the background. And Upfield creates wonderful, eccentric characters.

Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte always gets his man. (If he created a female criminal, I’ve missed her.) Along the way, he breaks rules, takes chances and uses mysterious aboriginal wisdom.

If you want to get happily and completely lost in a book, try Upfield. But I’m warning you, the urge to max out your credit card and travel to Australia RIGHT NOW may be overwhelming!