Posted April 10, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment
 
 

Book Review: The Ruins of Mars

BY RAY STILL

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Ruins of Mars cover art by Dylan James Quarles

Evergreen alum Dylan James Quarles has always been fascinated by the reports of canals seen on Mars through mankind’s first telescopes. These reports, which later proved to be optical illusions, fueled Quarles’ imagination to write and publish “The Ruins of Mars” trilogy.

Only the first two books, “The Ruins of Mars” and “Waking Titan,” are available to read and can be bought on Amazon. The final book, “Eye of the Apocalypse,” will be published late this summer.

Set 30 years into the future, the human race has come a long way with the help of the man-made Artificial Intelligences. Two AIs, Romulus and Remus, are sent to map out the planet Mars and look for water and other resources Earth is running dangerously low on.

Instead, the two aptly-named AIs discover a sprawling, but abandoned metropolis underneath the lethal surface of Mars. NASA then sends a team of scientists, pilots, engineers, and one aspiring archaeologist to explore the ruins.

The books explore several intelligent species – the homo sapiens of Earth, the Martians, and the Artificial Intelligences, who are classified as their own race.

Interestingly enough, Quarles decided to use the AIs as a foil for both Martians and homo sapiens. The Martians are very human-like – their presence in the book does not feel alien, but instead feels like an extension of what we consider humanity into a larger universe. Quarles’ portrait of the Martians appears loosely based off Northwest Native American traditional cultures.

Ruins of Mars 2 cover art by Cougar George and Dylan James Quarles

Ruins of Mars 2 cover art by Cougar George and Dylan James Quarles

It is the AIs that feel more alien in these books, even though the AIs are created, and even considered birthed, by people. Quarles used this opportunity to

explore the soul of a non-organic being. AIs may have the ability to learn and grow, and in most cases, are more intelligent and powerful than any human on earth, but they are also extremely confined and controlled. An AI can only learn in ways it was programmed to learn, or feel, in ways it was programmed to feel. When it comes down to it, Quarles’ AIs are beings of pure nature. We humans walk closer to nurture while discovering ourselves – we are made out of our life experiences, and have the ability to transcend our genetics. Quarles explores nature versus nurture by having AIs and humans operate together in a symbiotic relationship, forcing each species to explore their own limitations and advantages.

All analysis aside, it has been a ridiculously long time since I have walked down the street with an open book in my hands – I was hooked the moment I read the prologue, and I only got away because the third book isn’t available to me yet. Quarles’ books can be both entertaining and light reads, while also exploring philosophy, history, and even mythology. After “The Ruins of Mars” series, Quarles plans to start a new series, “The Man from Rome,” which will revolve around the actions and motives of  a nameless immortal who manages the secret conflicts between men and gods – an interesting blend of mythology, historical fiction, and modern day crime thriller that is sure to be a must-read.