Customer Reviews


84 Reviews
5 star:
 (38)
4 star:
 (19)
3 star:
 (12)
2 star:
 (8)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Epic
The first volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is absolutely magnificent. This is a book for non-SciFi readers, as well as SciFi fans: the subject matter is wide-ranging and the book kept my interest throughout.
In some ways it struck me as a 21st Century version of what it must have been like for the early colonisers in the United States.
The book is...
Published on 15 Aug 2002 by Mr. Russell Newton

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some quality in ridiculous quantity
Whilst several of the characters seen throughout this novel are horrendously stereotypical, -the visionary American, the manipulative, beautiful Russian woman, the untrustworthy... and so on, it does occasionally offer interesting and worthwhile character interaction which leads to original and at times fascinating situations.
However, -the major problem...
Published on 26 Mar 2000


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Epic, 15 Aug 2002
By 
Mr. Russell Newton "rusnewton" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is absolutely magnificent. This is a book for non-SciFi readers, as well as SciFi fans: the subject matter is wide-ranging and the book kept my interest throughout.
In some ways it struck me as a 21st Century version of what it must have been like for the early colonisers in the United States.
The book is beautifully written, a pleasure to read, and manages to get inside the heads of the main characters without falling into the Dickensian trap of too much description and not enough action.
I read it cover to cover in under a week and had to buy the second book the day I finished the first one.
I would put this in my list of all-time best reads, and for me that is saying something!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book(s) EVER... end of., 20 Dec 2005
"Red Mars" in particular, and the remainder of the trilogy as a whole are quite simply the best novels I have ever read. Ever. And I have read quite a few, s/f or otherwise. I recommend this to everybody, whether they like science-fiction or not.
It starts out, as an epic soap-opera - for want of a better description - about a group of 100 carefully chosen scientists, sent on their way to establish the first permanent colony on another planet, and all their curious personal interactions. Halfway there, they decide - as one might expect to happen - if they are to start a completely new civilisation, why should they be controlled from another planet, and do everything in accordance with NASA protocol. There begins the rebellion, which - a couple of tens of thousands of new colonists later - develops into a guerilla war for the control and sovereignty of our second home.
Kim Stanley Robinson likes to set up interesting little philosophical arguments between the main characters (as in "The Years of Rice & Salt", also an excellent book), and thus we see the continual disagreement between those who believe we have a duty as intelligent space-faring beings to spread life wherever there is none, and those who believe there is intrinsic value in a barren but untouched landscape, and that it should be left well alone.
All the characters are very well thought-out and developed (Sax being my favourite), and with a few notably exceptions, all of the technology the author proposes is very "near-future".
I have no idea what was going through the minds of the people who gave this book "1 Star". They should probably tackle something less challenging first, like one of Enid Blyton's epics. This book is unashamedly big and long, but it is so, because it covers an important and epic story.
Some day we will do this for real, assuming we haven't already killed ourselves off - which is a distinct possibility.
Read it, and take it for what it is: an incredibly well-constructed epic story about the human condition, transplanted to another planet. I find this book truly inspiring, and it is one of the only few I re-read at least once every two years.
The second book is about 85% as good as the first one, and strongly recommended also. The third one mainly really ties up loose ends, and is definitely worth a read if you liked the other two, but is certainly nowhere near as groundbreaking.
READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. (Then read the other two).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the classics, 24 Aug 2002
By 
ANDREW DAY (Hedge End, Hampshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This is one of the classics of modern SF. Strangely, though, there's very little literal science fiction in there. Apart from one gimmick later on, almost all of the science in this book we could do today. And therefore the story ends up being much more about the people and the politics. When I put it down, I was struck by two thoughts. Firstly that it's very easy to forget that Robinson has never actually been to Mars to research it, since the detail is so great. And second, that when we colonise Mars, this is exactly how we'll mess it up.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important hard SF novel on the settling of Mars, 21 Jun 2010
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Red Mars (Paperback)
Kim Stanley Robinson's epic Mars Trilogy chronicles humanity's colonisation of Mars, beginning in the early 21st Century and extending over a period of some two centuries. The first book, which covers a period of some forty years, sees the initial settling of Mars by the First Hundred, the welcome arrival of additional waves of colonists intent on scientific research and then the more challenging problems of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, refugees and outcasts on a world that is not ready for them, and the resulting tensions between the newcomers and old-timers, and between the authorities on Mars and Earth.

The success of the trilogy as a whole is debatable, but this first volume, at least, is a masterpiece. Robinson's story rotates through a number of POV characters amongst the initial settlers, the First Hundred, and it rapidly becomes clear that most of them are somewhat unreliable narrators. Maya's complaints in her own POV of her 'important problems' being ignored by the base psychiatrist are given another perspective in her friend Nadia's POV, which reveals Maya is more interested in a trivial love triangle between herself and two Americans rather than in the colonisation of Mars, whilst the psychiatrist Michel's POV reveals that he is giving Maya colossal amounts of time and attention (to the detriment of his own mental health) which is unappreciated. Character is thus built up in layers, from both internal viewpoints and external sources, making these central characters very well-realised (although characters outside the central coterie can be a little on the thin side).

However, it is Mars itself which is the central figure of the book. Robinson brings a dead planet to vivid life, emphasising the differences in terrain and character between the frozen northern polar icecap and the water-cut channels in the depths of the Valles Marineris, with the massive mountains of Tharsis towering high into the atmosphere and colonists eagerly staking claims to future beachfront properties in Hellas, the lowest point on Mars and the first place to see the benefits of terraforming. The ideas of Mars as it is now as a pristine, beautiful but harsh landscape and the habitable world it could be are sharply contrasted, and the rights and wrongs of terraforming form a core argument of the novel. I get the impression that Robinson sides with the view that the planet should be left untouched, but he is realistic enough to know this will not happen if Mars can be settled and exploited. Mars in this work becomes a success of SF worldbuilding to compete with Helliconia and Arrakis, losing only a few points for actually existing.

On the downside, Robinson hits a few bad notes. Some of these are unavoidable consequences of the book being nearly twenty years old. Even in 1992 the notion that the Chinese would not play a major role in the financing and undertaking of a Mars colonisation mission only forty years hence was somewhat fanciful, but today it is almost unthinkable. More notably, the global recession has made the possibility of a manned mission to Mars, let alone a full-scale colonisation effort, by the 2020s somewhat dubious. Of course, these are issues Robinson could not hope to predict in the early 1990s.

Other problems are more notable. Robinson goes to some lengths to make the pro-terraforming and anti-terraforming sides of the debate both understandable and intelligent, but his political sympathies are much more one-sided. The pro-Martian independence brigade have charismatic leaders and a grass-roots movement of plucky, honest-men-against-the-machine supporters to their name, whilst the pro-Earth-control movement is led by a fundamentalist conservative Christian and resorts to weapons and mass-slaughter extremely easily. Robinson, to his credit, recognises this problem in later books and tries to repair the damage somewhat (Phyllis, presented extremely negatively in Red Mars, is shown in a more sympathetic light in later volumes), but there remains a feeling of political bias in this first volume. In addition, it sometimes feels that Robinson really wants the reader to know about the years of research he put into the book, with tangents and divergences which make the book feel like half a novel and half a factual science volume on how the possible colonisation of Mars might happen. For those fascinated by the real-life plans to terraform Mars (like me) this isn't an issue, but for some it may be. It is also, by far, the biggest problem the sequels face.

Nevertheless, the sheer, massive scope and complexity of Red Mars makes up for this. There is an overwhelming feeling running through this novel unlike almost any other hard SF novel ever published, that this might actually happen. Maybe not as soon as 2027, maybe not with such a determined push towards colonisation and terraforming right from the off, but one day, barring the collapse of our civilisation, we will go to Mars, and many of the challenges and problems faced by the First Hundred in this book are issues that will need to be overcome to make that possibility a reality.

Plus, and this cannot be undervalued, the dry and more sedentary tone of the earlier parts of the book are made up for by the final 100 pages or so, which contains one sequence which ranks amongst the most memorable and stunning moments of SF imagery achieved in the history of the genre to date. Robinson may have the image of being a bit of a laidback Californian optimist, but he sets to blowing stuff up at the end of the book with a relish that makes even Greg Bear look unambitious.

Red Mars (****) is an awe-inspiring feat of SF worldbuilding and a vital novel on the colonisation of our neighbouring world, let down by a few moments of naivete and simplistic straw-manning of political points of view not to Robinson's liking. Overcoming this, the central characters are fascinating, the sheer scope of the book is stunning and the climatic revolution sequence is dramatic and spectacular.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply brilliant, 31 May 2003
By 
M. Mccreath (Wigan, england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is one of the best and most realistic sci-fi stories ever written, from the technical data on terraforming mars to animal evolution. This book has it all, from the first man to step foot on the red planet, to life, death, murder, revolution. The humanity of this book is simply astounding. The end of this book will have you buying Green Mars and then Blue Mars. Simply put this book is an Epic, a must read for any sci-fi lover.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex but rewarding, 20 July 2001
This book is heavy going, often switching character focus leading to many storylines running simultaneously. However this also leads to well developed characters and you gain a good understanding of the way the relationships develop between them. True, at times I did struggle and had to flick back a few times to remind myself what was going on but it builds up to a very thrilling end and I will definitely be buying the following two books in the trilogy (Green Mars & Blue Mars) to see how things turn out.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Red Mars, 27 Feb 2012
This review is from: Red Mars (Paperback)
Red Mars is divided into 8 parts, each lived through a different primary character. We vicariously experience the colonization and expansion of Mars through Frank, Maya, Nadia, and mission commander John Boone, as well as Michel Duval, the psychiatrist and one member who didn't request this post, and Ann Clayborne, an irascible scientist who turns red-environmentalist. This forms within the reader an intense intimacy and understanding of each person's psychological makeup. When we discover the character of the pioneer killed in Part 1, we comprehend the profound loss to the group entire.

But Red Mars isn't tragedy... it's sheer reality. Robinson writes the best "science science-fiction" of any major author out there. Arthur C. Clarke himself wrote of Red Mars: "A staggering book... the best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written... It should be required reading for the colonists of the next century." Robinson's scientific research is impeccable, as is his awesome understanding of world cultures. The reader becomes a citizen of the world by first becoming a citizen of Mars.

The men and women of Red Mars overcome much in this volume: the planet's forces, internal factions, the politics of city-building and immigration from Earth; and the joy is in the details. "It was a world of acts, and words had no more influence on acts than the sound of a waterfall has on the flow of the stream." This book spans decades of acts and actions, individual and collective. By the end of the book, Mars has undergone large-scale terraformation, introduction of biological agents, and mass emigration from Earth. The planet's potential has been noticed and exploited (in both positive and negative manner) by religious groups, transnational corporations, and Earth nation-states. The undercurrent of revolution is strong in this still colonial wilderness, and threatens to explode at any moment.The subconscious parallels made to America in this book are utterly fascinating.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The reverse of "dumbing down"., 30 April 2009
By 
J. Hind "John Hind" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The three volumes of the Mars Trilogy (Red, Green, Blue) total over 2000 dense pages of relentlessly serious and intelligent science, engineering, politics and future history. I have just finished reading the entire sequence for the third time and have enjoyed it more each time. I love fiction based on real and deep intellectual ideas and this delivers big time. The author is clearly a true renaissance man, comparable in many ways to Neil Stephenson in his breadth and depth of knowledge.

First, however, let's get the inevitable negatives out of the way.

For some reason, Robinson chooses to open the first volume of the trilogy with a gratuitously nasty flash-forward to the ugliest incident in the whole of the series. I defy any reader to get through these forty-odd pages without asking themselves if they really want to spend 2000 more in the company of this man. For "this man" read either the author or the character Frank Chambers! I count myself fortunate that I read one of the other volumes before backtracking to Red Mars as I am not sure I would have persisted otherwise. I'm guessing that Robinson is an academic and this choice comes from the same impulse of intellectual arrogance that makes a professor hit his students with the hardest part in the first lecture in order to "weed out the light-weights".

Next, I found the whole "red/green" political axis rather hard to take although I did smile at the nice subversion of what "green" means politically here-and-now! Would an expedition really be sent from earth not having resolved whether its basic mission was colonisation and terraforming or scientific investigation and conservation? The whole equipping and staffing of the mission would be different and this debate would have been resolved before they set out, with any dissenters excluded, or excluding themselves, from the mission. The entire idea of "terrorist geologists" struck me as preposterous and incomprehensible, but that is probably just me. Given some of the ridiculous and irrational ideas seemingly intelligent people will kill for, perhaps the mystical integrity of a lifeless world is not such a stretch!

Finally, I was on my third reading before I realised the other factor that is almost completely missing - a sense of humour, or any character with the capacity to enjoy life! I imagine someone pointed this out to Robinson, because he makes a half-hearted attempt in the final volume with a minor character called Zo Boon. Just as I was beginning to enjoy her sassy company, Robinson loses authorial patience with the brat and kills her off! Bummer!

On the positive side, Robinson has the knack, very rare in science fiction, of combining realistic hard science with real-world politics, sociology and psychology. The world he creates feels real and visceral and complex and chaotic, like this really could be how it will be. As far as I could tell his science and technology is real and feasible without being either too timid or veering into utopian or dystopian allegory. It is almost a textbook on how to bootstrap a dead planet into life. There is a certain amount of stereotyping in the characters, but they are still believable and rounded and Robinson writes women fully as well as he does men (if not better). But that said, the real characters in these books are intellectual ideas and Mars itself.

There is rather more geology and botany than I have patience for (the descriptive sciences not being my fascination) but I did learn a lot about engineering, planetary science, politics, economics and futurology, all while being entertained wonderfully. Read these books - they will expand your mind and make you yearn for a future filled with possibilities.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Science Fiction novel, 30 Aug 2005
By 
L. Davidson (Belfast, N.Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
"Red Mars" is so realistic that it almost reads like a work of narrative history documenting events that have taken place many years ago. Such is the wealth of geographical and technical detail contained in the novel, it is hard not to believe that the author hasn't already visited Mars or travelled back in time from the Red Planet to write this book. The plot is fairly straightforward in that it concerns the colonisation of Mars and its "terraforming" (artificially transforming its climate to make it like Earth) by a group of 100 men and women from Earth later this century. However the quality of the characterisation is excellent, the standard of writing high and the other-worldliness and melancholia of Mars is conveyed perfectly by the author. Mixed in with this is lots of social ,political and philosophical commentary as Man plays God in trying to set up a new Eden on Mars, but finds that a change of environment doesnt necessarily change the human condition. "Red Mars" is an intelligent and thought-provoking novel and I look forward to reading the next two novels in the trilogy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insight into human interaction, 25 Jan 1999
By A Customer
Red Mars gives an insightful view of true human nature, from different perspectives portrayed with the different characters in the book. The interaction between the characters is written superbly, with the prose giving use an idea of what people would go through if they were the only hundred people on a new planet. The interactions could be likend to the classic "Lord of the Flies", and perhaps the setting too. It gives an excellent account of what life would be like on Mars.
From the first paragraph of the book it draws you in developing the characters that you start to empathise with, seeing their points of view, feeling what they would in that situation. Robinson conveys the sense of 'being there'.
It's fantastic sci-fi too, with great attention to detail to create a beleiveable world for the first hundred to live in. From the account of the trip to Mars to the final chapters in the city, you get a very real sense of the near-future and what it contains.
When you finish it, you get the sense of having completed a great journey and, with the following Green and Blue Mars books, beginning something else. If you read it just for the sci-fi, you're missing the point.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Red Mars
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hardcover - 24 Sep 1992)
Used & New from: 12.92
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews