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The Martian Inca, by Ian Watson

Second paragraph of third chapter:
The bundle of parachute silk appropriated by Baltasar Quispe and found beneath the potatoes was loaded on the truck sealed up in plastic. As for the smaller wad of silk entrusted to the Sonco household, the president of Apusquiy town council, now embroiled in a bitter dispute over jurisdiction with the canton head from Santa Rosa, merely asked Martin Checa, being Angelina Sonco's common law husband and a resident in the Sonco house, to confirm that there was none still there, and then swore that all silk had been surrendered. That missing man Julio Capac had suggested bringing all the parachute material here to stop it from blowing away, the council president affirmed; for he had no intention of talking about informal distribution of what was now State property.
One of Ian Watson’s early books, with parallel narratives in which a virus in Martian soil causes spiritual transformation both among the inhabitants of the Bolivian village where a Soviet sample return mission crash lands, and among the crew of an American space mission to the planet. I felt that the message was rather heavily laid on; two decades later, KSR did a much better job of Mars as agent of spiritual transformation. I didn’t dislike it as much as Stanisław Lem, who wrote:
It is a pity that even highly talented, well-read, and intelligent writers of the younger generation, such as Ian Watson, fail to recognize the difference between the delusion of mysticism and what is really the case. He has erroneously yoked his considerable erudition to the wrong purpose of passing off a shallow fairy-tale for the lost redemption of our civilization. His novel tells much more about the confusion that currently holds captive even the brightest young people than about the real state of things on Earth and in the heavens, from which Mars shines down upon us as a challenge. About the genuine mysteries of the universe that we have yet to solve in the years to come, Watson's novel tells us nothing.
If you want to see what the fuss was about, you can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2010. Next on that pile is Putting Up Roots, by Charles Sheffield.

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