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)