Plenty of fictional energy has been devoted to what might have happened if a modern Jewish state were established somewhere other than the Middle East: Michael Chabon has examined Alaska and Ben Katchor upstate New York. But what if some enterprising Jews left Planet Earth entirely?
In his new novel Martian Sands, available as an e-book, Israeli-born Lavie Tidhar’s imagines “New Israel” and its kibbutzniks on Mars. They share citizenship of the Red Planet with descendants of other earthlings, who survive on the waterless surface under a biodome. Tidhar weaves an elaborate backstory to explain the economics and culture of the planet: in this society, New Israel rules, and “old” Israeli political heavyweights like Ben-Gurion and Meir are fabricated by a simulacra shop and recycled by Martian constituents. Meanwhile, a man named after a movie star travels back in time to instruct FDR to not go to war in the Pacific, and instead to focus his energy on liberating Jews from the Nazis.
Steampunk, cinematic, and occasionally disorienting in the manner of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—where we share the characters’ surprise and wonder—Martian Sands ultimately makes us ask: if we had the technology to change the course of history, would we use it?