Sunday, April 30, 2006

Book 10 1/2

"Red Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson

The first in one of the great SF trilogies, and one of the best novels about the colonisation of Mars ever written (a quote on the cover from whom I don't remember), this is not the easiest book I've ever read, but it is one of the most intricate. As the unattributed quote implies, it revolves around Earth's colonisation of Mars.

The book is divided into several sections, dealing with chunks of the history of the colonisation. We have a look at the arrival of the First Hundred, the impact of living for long times on Mars and the way the multinational corporations and national interests affect immigration and terraforming. In order to keep this review short, I'll not go into any specifics as the plot threads are multitudinous and interweaving. Suffice it to say we look at environmental issues, the nature of what it means to be human, social and political engineering and the impact of different religions and cultures on the creation of a new society.

The world Robinson has created is complete, engrossing and follows its own rules to the letter. The characters are a great mix of kind, mean, charming, withdrawn, egotistical and altruistic. In short he's put together a little cross-section of the best and worst of humanity and then sort of put 'em in a jar and shaken 'em up. I wans't always lost in the joys of the narrative with this one, but I was interested in what was happening and eager to find out what was going to happen next. This is one of those works (be it novel, film or TV) that I appreciated more for what it was than what I was getting out of it. It really is an amazing piece of work, and only a third of the piece as a whole.

It took me ages to read this one, 'cause I got distracted by other books and occasionally put off by the hard-core SF tone. I don't normally read sci-fi that's this hard-core, preferring cyberpunk and multi-genre works, so I did have to make an effort here, but that effort was rewarded. I only own the third book, so I'll have to find "Green Mars" somewhere because I do want to finish the trilogy. Of course, it'll probably take me ages to read the other books, too, but I reckon I'll still enjoy 'em.

Four descriptions of Martian dust that make our teeth feel gritty just to read them out of five.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a speculative fiction fanatic (half my 400 fiction books are SF) I've read the trilogy three times in all, and come to the conclusion that the first is the best. It is the most political, and therefore to me the most interesting (although the creation of the Mars "constitution" in I think Green Mars is a lesson in politics I won't forget in a hurry). Green and Blue are less accessible, and more about the characters' personal journeys in the midst of the changing landscape. There are shades of 'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress' in the second two, but more realistically dealt with than Heinlein's classic. If you find the description of the dust ('fines') get to you in Red, the extended geological and aerological sequences in Green and Blue might put you off ever finishing them. I do recommend going all the way, to find out what happens next if nothing else.


9:28 PM  
Anonymous denis said...

I've got Green Mars if you want to borrow it. (I think. I've got two of the 3 books, at least, and I'm pretty sure that's one of the ones I have.)

11:45 AM  

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