We’re definitely living in the future now: a garden designed as a rest area for astronauts on Mars has won best garden
in the Chelsea Flower Show. And at about the same time, that brave little shopping cart, Spirit, has discovered a patch of silica-rich soil
that provides further evidence of Mars’s wet past. More than ever, I want NASA, or the Chinese, or quite frankly anybody, to get a manned expedition together as soon as possible. The Mars Rovers and satellites have done and are continuing to do a fantastic job, but the only way to properly search for fossils on Mars is to send a geologist or paleontologist there and let them loose on the most likely bits of landscape. And as Mars is mapped in finer and finer detail, and as the rovers continue to probe the rocks and dirt, it seems more and more likely that some traces of past life will be found.
I’ve been scrawling red ink all over the first draft of the next novel, pruning back stuff that’s far too lush, taking out things that have no business being there, and finding places where scenes are missing. Soon, I’ll have to start making good these IOUs to myself. I did find time to read Don DeLillo’s 9/11 novel, Falling Man
. Great in parts, good in others, but didn't quite pull together: the bits from a terrorist's point of view seemed invented rather than felt, for instance, and those three shortish passages didn't quite add anything much, except one good transition at the end. But DeLillo is very good on dealing with the multiple psychic traumas of 9/11 without specifically explaining or signposting, and that was where I felt the novel really took off, especially in a couple of sequences in Las Vegas. As a break from red ink and wincing, I watched 28 Weeks Later
, which I can’t really recommend (as Professor Frink would say, first there’s the biting, then the running and the screaming and the biting and the running), and Zodiac
, which I can recommend, unreservedly. Up there with The Lives Of Others
as my film of the year, for what it’s worth.