September 12, 2010

Red Mars

It's long, sure, but more than that Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars is just plain vast.  It covers a large cast of characters over a long span of time.  Which is good, because it took me a long span of time to read it.  It's been one of those bedside books I get to before bed while I read a million other things instead.  I think that'll be a trend for my "grown-up" books now that I'm an elementary school librarian.  I'll have to balance my great interests in reading with my desire to read more kid's books.

It was published in the early 90s but only a few of the political issues seem dated.  In fact, it's scarily prescient.  In takes place in my favorite time period, The Not-Too-Distant Future, and involves, at first, a contingent of one hundred specially selected and trained scientists, engineers, biologists, physicists and the like who land and create the first viable long-term human presence on Mars.  It quickly fast forwards through time until Mars is a hopping destination for more and more people that, of course, strain the infrastructure being set up and cause all kinds of political and social upheaval.

Things I didn't buy:

 It was supposedly and "international" mission but it's mainly Americans and Russians at first.  I think we'd really have more countries involved up front.  Heck, nowadays we'd have to.  But Robinson does an amazing job showing how many more political and ethnic groups would influence a human Mars and some realistic niches they would fall into.  Arab groups, familiar with desert life, are some of the main reconnaissance teams.  Things like that.

The big one for me was the terraforming.  The "First Hundred" as they're called, become divided over whether to begin terraforming projects or leave Mars as is and adapt to and study it's rich geological history.  I have to believe that would be decided far in advance of an actual jillion-dollar international mission.  Obviously, they begin terraforming.

Things I bought:

Pretty much everything else.  This isn't a plot-driven novel.  It's hard science fiction with some serious political, cultural, and social commentary.  You'll learn things about the geology of Mars, the engineering feats needed to make a mission like this happen, and the possible diplomatic pitfalls possible than you cold ever imagine.

In some ways, it's pretty bleak.  There is in-fighting.  There are realistic breaks from the rules set down by Earth's governments.  (It's hard to enforce rules and treaties from 36 to 250 million miles away).  There are issues with mining and immigration and corporate/political maneuvering.  There is ethnic and religious strife.  There is rebellion.  We hear from news reports that the climate and over-population problems on Earth are becoming untenable.

But.  We go to Mars!  We do it and it's awesome and we build beautiful cities and technological wonders and create new myths and traditions and adapt languages to suit.  And this is only the first of three books!  I have no idea when I'll get to the sequels, but I will someday.  Meanwhile, I'll dream of Mars.  Really detailed ones too.

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)


Kathy Martin said...

I know what you mean about the adult books getting pushed to the side. I try to alternate one adult book with one YA book. Though I am planning to concentrate on the YA during a readathon next week just to reduce the stack a bit. Happy reading!

C.B. James said...

I thought this was the second in the series. I tried these some time ago and did not get into them. I need to be in the right frame of mind, I guess.

I'm glad you are making time for adult reading. It's so easy to give in the YA and kid lit. I've resisted so far this year, but I know I'll have to devote next weekend to several YA titles on have on my desk at school.

Jim Randolph said...


Red Mars is first, then Green Mars, then Blue Mars. They're definitely not for everyone and I actually enjoyed it more, I think, by spreading it out.


doug0077 said...

Hi Ninja,

I've not read this series, but I really enjoyed the alternative history of Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt. Give it a shot (between kiddie books!)


"Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories." Arthur C Clarke

Jim Randolph said...


Yes, that one looks great as well. I'll keep it on my list, thanks!