Red Mars

  • Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Harper Collins
  • 1992

Red Mars is a wonderfully detailed account of the human effort to terraform Mars in the hope that one day man may freely populate its surface. It is the first book of a trilogy that has directly benefited from seventeen years of research by the author, Kim Stanley Robinson, coupled with a well thought out story line. It follows the nine month journey of the 100 scientists and engineers who were chosen to start the terraforming effort and build the first human habitats on Mars.

…Robinson seems to know the Martian landscape almost by the back of his hand

The story is relatively slow paced in the first legs of the journey and their landing on the red planet, but it is most certainly rewarding. Because of the amount of science within it, it can be hard going at times, and so this is a book that’s best read ‘in bits’ as opposed to sitting down for hours and reading in a long session. Robinson seems to know the Martian landscape almost by the back of his hand from the shield volcanoes and the Martian basins to the regolith and the ‘fines’ — it’s not red dust blowing across Mars but red fines — FACT! It is almost worth reading just for the first hand tour of the red planet courtesy of the author.

The story focuses around the ‘first hundred’ who make the journey to Mars. More people start to arrive on Mars a few ‘years’ into the storyline but they are characters in the story of the first hundred whom the reader slowly builds up an intimate knowledge of. One of the characters, Anne Clayborne, decides that she does not want to terraform the planet but preserve it as it is — a frozen wasteland with no atmosphere — and this obviously conflicts with those who want to make it habitable for humans.

…a complex plot that comes to a head near the end of the book

As the story continues, the people who share Anne’s opinions, who become known as the ‘Reds’, start sabotaging the terraforming effort whiles the ‘Greens’ (people who want to terraform) have to fight against this. But Earth keeps sending more and more people to Mars, for as the years go on, Earth has become dangerously overpopulated and the increasing global warming has invited the prospect of disaster on Earth before Mars will be fully habitable. The politics of the Greens and the Reds are prominent to the storyline and is intricate to every part of the new society they are trying to build — everything from the science, to economics and to the construction of habitats are crucial to the theories and differing opinions of the characters within the book. It is these factors and politics that slowly keeping escalating throughout the story to create a complex plot that comes to a head near the end of the book.

Red Mars would not be a suitable choice if you are just looking for something to read quickly; it draws you in and you become part of the epic storyline that throughout the entirety of the trilogy will span over two hundred years. Definitely a ‘bed-time’ book, Red Mars is worth reading if you are interested in Science Fiction, Mars or if you just want to lose yourself to a well written epic story.

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