It is long after the final war. Mankind is at peace in a world filled with scientific advancement.

And now, man sets his sites on a new conquest - that of Space - and together the whole world begins the construction of a mighty fleet built with one purpose: To visit the Planet Mars!

While in the Worldcon huckster's room in 2006, I ran into a table run by a new publishing company called Apogee Books. It's apparently specializing in reprints of books related to space (for instance, the Apollo News Reference Manuals) and old science fiction novels. But not just any old SF novels, stuff that people may have been hearing about for large numbers of years, but haven't seen for twice that number.

Project MarsOne of those "long heard of but never seen" titles is Project Mars: A Technical Tale, which was von Braun's attempt at science fiction, written just after WWII, but before he became a name for his Collier articles.

Yep, in 1949, von Braun wrote a novel, which was never published until Apogee got a hold of it.

To be honest, it's pretty clear why this didn't get published. Von Braun's story holds together pretty well (if with extremely cardboard characters) up until they get to Mars – but then they meet Martians who look exactly like Earthmen (because apparently von Braun thought God would do things that way) and, to me anyway, the plotline became really cliché and predictable, even by 1940's SF standards!

Still, this is an interesting book if for nothing else than it is a detailed description of von Braun's first “Mars Expedition” plans. It predates the Collier's articles and - indeed – provided the basis for them. I strongly suspect someone reading his novel said "you know, if you take out all the crap about the Martians, this might actually be interesting” - so he did and thus the Collier's articles were born.

So, to sum: Bad novel, but wonderful review of von Braun's plans for the future (as seen in Metachronological Geographic) and well worth the ten bucks I spent for it.