on 5 January 2005
Like the first book, Red Mars, at times this can read more like a history textbook than a novel. The book is broken up into sections, each written from the point of view of various characters. This gives each part a personal spin, but breaks up the overall narrative somewhat, leaving the reader a bit dislocated. It also lacks the exploring-the-unknown, hard science aspects of Red Mars, but that was inevitable given the plot.
That said, it's superbly well thought out, and utterly, completely convincing. If you liked Red Mars, this is worth the follow-up.
2090. Sixty years ago, humanity landed on Mars, and stayed. The First Hundred led the colonisation effort, soon joined by other colonists and settlers. Thirty years after arriving, the people of Mars demanded political independence from the trans-national megacorps that were gradually subsuming national governments on Earth into their influence. The result was the First Martian Revolution, a revolution that was crushed. During the fighting Phobos was destroyed, the space elevator linking Mars to space fell and two-thirds of the First Hundred were killed.
Mars is becoming greener, with algae, lichen and primitive plants growing on the surface. The atmosphere is thickening, the icecaps are melting and the terraforming is proceeding at a pace outstripping the most optimistic projections. Now several new generations of native Martians have been born, all chafing against the rule of a planet millions of miles away that they care little about. Thirty-nine of the First Hundred still live, their lives extended by an experimental - and expensive - treatment that is only available to the rich and powerful on Earth, fuelling civil unrest there, whilst being freely available on Mars. Over the course of almost forty years, the Martians prepare for a new bid for independence, one that will be led by reasoned argument rather than mindless violence.
Green Mars is the second novel in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, his epic account of the colonisation and terraforming of Mars. The first novel, Red Mars, concerned itself with the initial landing, exploration and colonisation of Mars, and the changes wrought by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of fresh immigrants from different cultures, culminating in the bloody and failed revolution. The second novel is principally about learning from the mistakes of the first attempt and preparing for a second, more ambitious revolution. At the same time, the terraforming of Mars and the science behind it remains a key focus, as Robinson floods the Hellas Basin and Vastitas Borealis, tents over canyons to make viable living spaces, thickens the atmosphere, and increases sunlight through the arrival of a huge mirror in Martian orbit.
Green Mars is not an action-packed novel, although there are more action beats than I remember from my first read of this novel some twenty years ago. One of the First Hundred is imprisoned by one of the corporations and his comrades have to rescue him, whilst later on some of the more radical groups launch a terrorism campaign against the Earth-imposed government on Mars. Towards the end of the book, the second revolution is launched which results in some impressive imagery: the flooding of the city of Burroughs after the nearby dyke is blown and two hundred thousand people have to walk seventy kilometres to safety and trust that the atmosphere is as breathable as the scientists claim is a stirring image, almost as memorable as the fall of the space elevator in the previous novel.
But for the most part, this is a hard SF novel, concerned with the physical sciences involved in terraforming and with the social sciences of how to meld a new society together out of myriad competing interests. A minor weakness of the first novel is that Robinson's own politics were too often on display, but in Green Mars he does a better job of portraying all sides of the debate. The would-be rebels' extremely reluctant alliance with one of the more democratic megacorps seems to be an admission that as much as you may want to escape the woes of Earth and fly off to another planet to found a utopian paradise, you really can't, at least not whilst that society is dependent on science and technology to survive, and is not totally self-sufficient (yet, though by the end of the novel it's close).
For the most part, our characters are survivors of the First Hundred: Maya, Michel, Nadia and Sax, who have seen their dream (not unanimously shared) of a free, green Mars corrupted by corporate interests. They are joined as POV characters by Nirgal, the son of Hiroko, who represents the Martian-born generation, and by Art, representing the metanational corporation Praxis, who tries to form an alliance with the Martian revolutionaries and then finds himself unexpectedly inheriting the mantle of John Boone from the first book as the guy who can talk to everyone, no matter their agenda. Characterisation is pretty strong, helped by the fact that many of these characters are now extremely old and have changed a fair bit from the first novel: the formerly quiet Sax is aggressive and angry after a spell in jail, Maya has realised what an unpleasant person she was in her youth and is determined to change, and Nadia has embraced her status as someone who is respected and listened to (which pays off handsomely in the final novel in the trilogy).
As with the first novel, this book isn't a thriller or an adventure (though it has elements of those in some sequences). It's a hardcore novel about how the colonisation of Mars could really happen. This manifests itself most notably in a lengthy mid-novel sequence in which the competing factions gather together to decide on the future of Mars. Rather than a quick gathering and a bunch of people agreeing on a way forwards, this takes the form of a month-long conference with tons of arguments which ends in a compromise declaration that satisfies no-one and people are unhappy with but nevertheless reluctantly agree on. Robinson draws parallels (some subtle, most not) not only with the Continental Congress and the American Declaration of Independence, but also with the Russian Revolution, even naming the chapter in question What Is To Be Done? Many will find this sequence mind-bogglingly boring, but those with an interest in history and politics will find it fascinating and convincingly realistic (though maybe only up until the slightly hippy-tastic closing ceremony where everyone celebrates the end of the conference by going surfing on an underground lake, which feels a bit random).
On the more negative side, Green Mars is almost 800 pages long, some 150 pages longer than the first book, and there is less decisive forward movement in the plot compared to the first novel. Some sequences feel rather skimmable, mostly those involving the in-depth political discussions on the differences between the Marsfirsters, the Reds, the First Hundred, the Bodanovists, the Arab settlers and what feels like fifty other groups. Yet Robinson is also laying out the groundwork for the explosive Second Revolution (the novel finishes with the revolution unfinished, giving us something of a cliffhanger), in particular having to explain how the mistakes of the 2061 rebellion are not repeated. Necessary, but not always gripping.
Beyond that, there are the rich, evocative and atmospheric descriptions of the changing Martian landscape, the sheer scope as Robinson tries to channel as many scientific disciplines as possible to paint the most realistic picture possible of the colonisation effort (in this regard there are similarities with Aldiss' similarly fantastic worldbuilding for Helliconia), the richly-realised characters and the sometimes poetic and lyrical power of his prose (though he falls back into a dry, academic and textbook-like approach a little bit too often).
Green Mars (****) won both the Hugo and Locus awards for best novel in 1994 and it's easy to see why. This is inspiring and epic hard SF, though it stumbles a little with pacing and tone. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
on 16 April 2015
The second volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's epic about the colonization of mars Is quite amazing. It deals with a astonishing amounts of themes, from various political themes, such as revolution, echo environmentalism and various forms of government.
My favourite element of the book is the excellent world building, with varied environments and characters, and the literal world building, in the form of terraforming, presenting a realistic and interesting picture of a future human occupied mars.
The book also deals with a great deal of philosophy, about governments, planets, the environment and technology, the entire story is quite clearly told as an allegory to the colonization of America, well without the natives, but with the sense of wonder and exploration, and with the flow of ideas and new cultures that flowered in the new world.
The book sometimes gets a little slow, but the overall plot, while slow building, is excellently put together with varied and well written characters, with beautifully and creative scenery, that presents a semi realistic picture of mars with a lot of real word ideas about how a colonization of mars could happen, woven in to the plot of the book.
on 16 December 2012
Green Mars is the second book of a series of 3 books (Red, Green and Blue Mars). All of these totalize around 2500/3000 pages of real science fiction if I could say. The story gravitates around the 100 first humans to colonise the planet and their subsequent struggle to save it from earth's greedy exploitation.
For some reasons, Mars has always fascinated man's imagination. Probably because it is the most likely planet we will move next. Or is it because it could be our savior?
The series is lengthy and many people can find it boring which in some extent I could understand. Lets say if you dont like it after 200pages, you will probably not like it at all and struggle to finish the book. The books are relatively consistant in terms of rythm, style or content thus if few things anoy you, it is likely that you will suffer to read it.
For the rest of us who enjoy the Mars series, this is a monumental piece of work. i do not think the author is trying to show off his knowledge but rather wants us to open our eyes on the multi-science requirements for colonising a planet. Everything is in there: geology, climatology, sociology, ethics, revolutions and rebellions, racism, cold war legacy, politics, etc.
One of my favourite subject is the anti-ageing treatment that is commercialised few years after the initial landing. This creates havoc on earth. Imagine: Rich citizens only can access it while the remainder of the earth population is dying of hunger !
I never came across a book that asks so many questions regarding immortality: boredom, lost of memory, change of personality, polygamism, etc..
On the contrary, one of the criticism of the book is the way some characters are pictured. I tend to agree that author is trying to give them depth but it does not always work. For example, I became a bit irritated with the triple love relation between Chalmers, Maya and Boone.
On the other hand, characters such as Sax, Michel or Hiroko are a success from my point of view.
Green Mars is slightly below in terms of quality compared to Red Mars. Probably mainly because Red Mars was more "ground breaking" than the others. Green Mars is more of repetition of the first book. In this book, the remaining 100st rebuild their world and the book ends with a second revolution. The planet is terraformed further while the Metanationals try to take more control over Mars in order to exploit its ressources. The unconvincing triple love story between Chalmers, Maya and Boone carries on while further generation of Martians are created.
The last third of the book is probably the best and provide some rythm. Cataclysmic events shake earth while Martians are trying to undo their ties with the mother planet.
One of the great question coming out from these books is: "by the time we would colonise Mars, would we have pacify our civiliation to not repeat the same mistakes or would we bring our problems to this new planet?"
the book becomes quite violent when the Mars revolution takes place. The repression by metanationals is quick and violent.
It seems that our civilisation, if successful in colonising other planets, would always be on the brink of disintegration or collapse and the jump and requirement for sending colons to reduce congestion on our already inhabited planets would be permanent. In other words, the inner pressure in our societies and poverty would continuously fuel a migration of colons to other better promising worlds.
"Green Mars" seamlessly follows on from where "Red Mars" left off and it is just as well written and convincing as the first book of the trilogy. Once again the whole feel of the book is like an historical narrative written after the event by some kind of time traveller , rather than an imaginative work of futuristic fiction by a talented writer . The plot is thoroughly gripping, the characterisation immense and the geographical, geological and biological detail is phenomenal. "Green Mars" sees the development of a "Martian Underground" resistance which tries to gain political independence from Earth and the transnational corporations that control it. The main characters are all infused with a steely determination to stop Mars becoming an Earth Mark 2 and the book explores their collective struggle to forge a separate Martian identity and society amidst the climate changes brought about by ongoing "terraforming" which is steadily "greening" Mars and creating large areas of surface ice. It is remarkable how the author has brought Mars to life so vividly ;his fantastic world of space elevators, tented cities, genetically engineered flora and Platonic "Scientist-King" revolutionaries is quite astounding. "Green Mars", despite the scientific minutiae is a very readable book. I raced through the 800 page epic in 7 days and I hope that the final book in the trilogy ,"Blue Mars", is just as good as the first two.