This is a reread review. I went straight from one Bova as my bathroom reading, to another. Thankfully, I found this one much more engrossing and consistent than I did the Kinsman Chronicles. The pacing doesn't lag in the middle, as that one did, and I never had trouble convincing myself to pick it up and read a few more pages.
Mars is a fairly straightforward story - there is no far-future tech, no aliens (or are there?), few wild leaps of imagination. What it is is an account of the first mission to Mars, in such terms as might actually happen - the political compromises that would impede or otherwise alter scientific desire, the men and women who would be chosen, and some of the obstacles they might face once there.
The main character, Jamie Waterman, illustrates some of the problems one man might have even being selected, being one American too many on an international endeavour, and Native American to boot. We see his struggles to be picked, the machinations behind the scenes that get him on board, and then how what we find on Mars might necessitate changing bureaucratic plans, who that might upset, and, near the end, the way that everyone except the doctor mysteriously sickens, and no one quite knows why.
While I'm sure the actual Mars mission will not resemble this in any particulars, but these all feel like things that could
happen, quite easily. (And please, please, let that mission happen within my lifetime. You've got a while to go - get on it!) Particularly, the behind the scenes politics, where no one actively wishes the Mars mission to fail, although several wish that their predecessors in office hadn't pledge the funding, seemed a good representation of what might happen.
There are more in the series, and I look forward to seeing what happens next!