on 15 August 2002
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!
on 20 December 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).
on 24 August 2002
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.
on 16 December 2012
Red Mars is the first of a series of 3 books (..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.
Red Mars is probably my favourite of the three. Probably mainly because it is more "ground breaking" than the others. The two others are more of a "we take the same people, the same problems and concepts and we write another book". Still, they are enjoyable but not as much as the first one.
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.
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 (****½) 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.
on 25 April 2014
I'm a bit conflicted about this trilogy. On one level it is a brilliant sci-fi epic with subtle characterisation and acres of excellent plot and fascinating science. On another level it's the story of human civilisation, heavy with detailed political, psychological, social and scientific analysis. It explores matters that are very important and which I care about.
I'm just not sure I want so much challenging stuff mixed up with my sci-fi. That said I have read Red and Green Mars (just about to start Blue Mars) one after the other without being able to put them down and have not skipped a page.
My one gripe is regarding the final chapter of Red Mars, when the delightfully long, slow and detailed story in which I was immersed suddenly ended in the italics of a resume of what happens next - almost as if the writer got bored - whereas I wasn't bored at all and would have liked it to carry on at the same leisurely pace.
on 26 March 2000
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 undoubtedly lies with the excessive length of the novel, -and certainly during the middle 200 or so pages the plot drags tediously and unprofitably.
Personally, I'd say this book exhibited all the traits of a potentially successful sci-fi novel, but, alas, manages to submerge all the enjoyable bits in a multitude of unnecessary text and description.
on 27 April 2013
Having had this series of books in paperback for some years I was delighted to see that they have (eventually!) been release on Kindle. I nervously purchased them as sometimes publishers, in their rush to get their products converted to e-format in order to cash in on the success that Kindle has been, release such products without proof-reading them first. However, no such worries here as the publisher has done a vary good job of the conversion and I had no proplems at all with it.
This is a fascinating story of man's first venture to Mars with the view of populating it. The book starts off a little ahead of this feat but then goes back to the training astronauts had, their journey to Mars and subsequent landing and building. It's a novel of (quite believable) science fiction, relationships, economy, politics, ethnicity, sabotage and intrigue.
I find it's a book you need to really settle into and to read carefully as there is so much there that you might miss something. A book that each time you read it you realise something new.
Thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading the next two books in the series (on Kindle):
Green Mars (Voyager Classics) and Blue Mars (Voyager Classics)
on 4 July 2013
Having now read all three in the trilogy I would say that they are a worthy effort, firmly in the tradition of Azimov and Clarke (in their more epic modes) - but for me slightly let down by a lack of editing. Rather too much geology and geography, both repeated in lengthy chunks throughout the storyline. The plot and characters are excellent, truly well thought out and developed; witness the fact that I did read all three books, but I did have to skim read a bit too much for my liking. I don't mind at all to read beautiful and imaginative descriptive passages, but in all three books I really felt there was just too much of it... and it did disrupt the flow of the story in a way you would never find in the likes of classic Azimov (Foundation trilogy for example). Nevertheless, this quality of 'serious' science fiction is rare these days and this Mars trilogy still well deserving of the four stars.
on 23 November 2015
This is an example of some thoughtful well written well thought out hard Sci-Fi. It took me a little while to get into the story and pull myself up to speed with the world of the book and its characters. but as I got further in I was gradually immersed and found myself hooked before I knew it.
The ideas and themes are simple enough to get across but the deeper you go and the more you think about it the more rewarding I found it became.
Overall I now can't wait to get into the next book of the trilogy.