Book Cover
Title Red Mars
Author Kim Stanley Robinson
Cover Art Don Dixon
Publisher Bantam Spectra - 1993
First Printing Bantam Spectra - 1993
Book Cover
Title Green Mars
Author Kim Stanley Robinson
Cover Art Don Dixon
Publisher Bantam Spectra - 1994
First Printing Bantam Spectra - 1994
Book Cover
Title Blue Mars
Author Kim Stanley Robinson
Cover Art Don Dixon
Publisher Bantam Spectra - 1997
First Printing Bantam Spectra - 1996
Book Cover
Title The Martians
Author Kim Stanley Robinson
Cover Art Don Dixon
Publisher Bantam Spectra - 2000
First Printing Bantam Spectra - 1999
Category Science Fiction
Warnings None
Main Characters John Boone, Frank Chalmers, Maya Toitovna, Sax Russell, Ann Clayborn, Arkady Bogdanov, Nadia, Nirgal, Michel, Peter, Coyote, Simon Frazier
Main Elements Space Exploration
Website kimstanleyrobinson.info




Click to read the summaryRed Mars

Click to read the summaryGreen Mars

Click to read the summaryBlue Mars

Click to read the summaryThe Martians




I was in love with this series before I ever read it...but it turns out that judging a book by its cover is a risky business and my high expectations for what this series was actually about was not met. Don't get me wrong, it's a good series but...well, let me list the problems I had with it.

The technology - ok, so it turns out that this series isn't actually about the science and technology required to terraform Mars. Thus, Robinson had a tendency to speed up scientific development to ridiculous levels. I mean, what's the chance that one hundred settlers would land on Mars and the only one that died was actually murdered? The second worst thing was a character losing a finger. There was no equipment failure. They somehow magically created everything they needed from the planet's resources. And terraforming was complete in less than two centuries...and I don't mean just breathable air, I mean plants and wildlife and everything else. Oh, and while they were busy trying just to survive they also happen to stumble across a longevity treatment so people can now live centuries (I guess it was just a plot device needed that so the same characters could carry through the time period the series covered, could see no other meaningful reason for tossing in a concept that would make a series of it's own to discuss), and to wrap things up, we'll also discover interstellar travel, since I guess if you're on a scientific discovery roll might as well cover all the near impossible problems we're faced with right?

The next issue I had was, well, Robinson covered a LOT of ground. Technology, psychology, economics, politics, sociology, ecology and everything in science from geology to quantum physics, you name it, it was covered. I enjoyed some of that, because a lot of was actually hard science, regardless of the pace at which technology evolved, however they tended to come in info dumps and if there was a topic you didn't much care for (economics and politics for me...had to snore through the whole creation of a constitution) it could get kind of boring. However, I have to conceede, that if ever we should colonize Mars, ALL those issues will have to be dealt with. Just was a bit overwhelming to have to read about it all at once.

Robinson also clearly loved the idea of Mars, to the point where the characters would roll about it's surface in a rover for entire chapters at a time, usually alone so it was just descriptions of the terrain punctuated by a few thoughts. Much as the reader needs Mars to be described to him, having every single rock, sand dune, and later, piece of lichen, pointed out could get a little boring at times. Sax alone must have analyzed at least a hundred distinct pieces of lichen and small plants during the course of the trilogy.

And the characters. Yes they were interesting, they were all dysfunctional in their own way, each representing some aspect of something Robinson wanted to explore, but I personally ended up not getting attached to pretty much any of them. They weren't just dysfunctional, they were mostly unlikeable. Maybe Sax by the end, and of course Nadia. Being an engineer myself and not particulary socially adept I guess I tended to sympathize with them the most. Nirgal was also a breath of sanity.

I can see why these books have won both the Nebula and Hugo awards, they are epic descriptions of everything we'd run into if we were to attempt to colonize and then terraform Mars, including whether it should be terraformed at all or perserved in it's current state. After all, putting a bunch of plants and bacteria on it would wipe out billions of years of history of the planet, it would all be tainted, it could kill off any existing life hidden deep beneath the surface. The ethical question of whether humans should mess around in a pristine ecosystem, even a dead one. But right, nearly forgot...this trilogy didn't just cover events on Mars...on Earth governments are being taken over by corporations, and due to climate change waters are rising, and due to the longevity treatments populations are exploding...did I mention these three books cover a LOT of ground?

So while I still love the covers, and it was definitely worth a read, I'm not sure I'll ever read them again.

November 2017

The anthology of short stories had it's ups and downs. It actually introduces a set of new characters that have their own storyline that continues throughout the anthology which I thought at first weird (when I read the first one wondering who everyone was) then interesting as more and more stories accumulated. And of course we meet up with old favorites. It still suffers from people just wandering the terrain and describing the colours of rocks, at least 50 pages if not 100 were dedicated to a single climb of Olympus Mons, interesting, but I didn't need every handhold and foothold mentioned the whole several kilometers up. And I'm not someone that is all that interested in poetry. But I think my favorite was "Purple Mars" where Robinson describes the day where he finished the manuscript, printed it out and mailed it, but doing so while taking care of his young son whose favorite word was "No", it was a perfect conclusion this epic saga.




Posted: September 2017

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