Tag Archives: Mars

“Green Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson

After swearing off Robinson’s Mars trilogy because the books are too long, I jumped only 6 weeks later into Green Mars. Red Mars ended with a failed attempt by the Martian colony to “liberate” itself from earth.

Green Mars takes place roughly a generation later with many of the same characters. Mars has been altered drastically, and it’s exploitation as a source of strategic minerals is galloping along. But there’s an underground of rebels, including Mars born children and non-conformists of all ages. The books end with a deus ex machine plot twist which isn’t worthy of good literature.

Once again, Robinson spends an inordinate amount of time describing the geography of Mars. It’s interesting to me that he can picture the planet in so much detail, but he writes on for paragraph after paragraph, page after page.

I thought about other authors who put lots of descriptive geography into their books. One is Arthur Upfield, who wrote the Inspector Napoleon Bonoparte Mystery series, which is located in Australia and ran to 20 books. His stories, taking place at varied locations, are greatly enhanced by his descriptions of terrain. Upfield makes me want to get to Australia as soon as possible. His books are not long. The geographic descriptions are tucked in quite succinctly.

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“Red Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson, published 1992

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)

This is the third book by KS Robinson that I’ve reviewed here in my blog. The other entries are dated

  • April 5, 2017 (New York 2140, published in 2017) and
  • June 5, 2017 (Aurora, published in 2015).

I originally dived into Robinson’s work because I wondered what a science fiction writer had to say about climate change.

Robinson does not hesitate to tell a BIG story! Red Mars covers an impressive amount of time and space. There are 100 people in the party dispatched to colonize Mars, and it’s hard to keep track.

After a long, slow build-up, the plot caught me up and I couldn’t stop reading.

Robinson postulates an amazing amount of technology, much of which is extremely (improbably?) sophisticated. He also assumes havoc on earth – overpopulation, takeover by multinationals, etc. The most disruptive technology he posits is a technique for individual rejuvenation, to restore to a person the immune system and ability to heal of a ten year old. This would add an unknown numbers of decades to life. On earth, score one more for Malthus…

As in New York 2140, Red Mars is told in two voices. One is an omniscient narrator and the other a “commentator”. It’s a weak device. Isn’t it an author’s job to construct a coherent narrative? The parallel structure works better in New York 2140, published more than 30 years later. Robinson improved greatly over those decades.

My problem with Red Mars is its length. Robinson includes way too much descriptive cogitation. A good editor might have helped him to tell the tale in half the number of pages.

Making comparisons with The Martian by Andy Weir is impossible to resist. The Martian is short and crisp. The author didn’t really set out to write a novel! His chatty, un-selfconscious prose is refreshing. His main character, Mark Watney, could have been the student next to me in college math or physics. No one in Red Mars was as clearly drawn.

So I won’t move on to Green Mars (the second of the Mars trilogy) any time soon. Too much going on in my life, too many other good books to read. If I become sick or disabled or have to drive to Tucson, I’m sure I will enjoy the rest of the Mars trilogy.

“The Martian: A Novel” by Andy Weir

This breezy, fast paced tale qualifies as “science fiction with the emphasis on science”. Andy Weir obviously had fun writing it. The protagonist, Mark Watney, is a cheerful wise guy. Finding himself abandoned on Mars due to a series of improbable events, he manages to stay alive, presenting NASA with a terrible problem. Can they rescue him? First they have to establish communication. The next problem is food. Watney starts to grow potatoes in the “habitat” intended to shelter the aborted scientific mission. I won’t give you more details, because the entertainment value of this book IS the details. This is a great book for when you need distraction. I enjoyed it while traveling, and look forward to whatever else Weir has up his sleeve.