Kevin's Reviews > Red Mars

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
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Sep 11, 11

bookshelves: 2011-reading
Read from June 11 to September 11, 2011

I hate to use a word that seems like a cliché these days, but Red Mars is epic.

The ideas in Red Mars are big, really big. Should Mars be terraformed so that it be more habitable? Should we leave it alone and frozen in time to be studied? Should the politicians on Earth be the ones to govern and rule settlements on another planet? If given a blank slate what would a new society loo like? What factors would shape it? How will people deal with an influx of new people, new cultures, and new ideas? Robinson tackles these issues by telling the colonization of Mars through several viewpoints from characters that run the full spectrum of ideas and motivations that shine a new and different perspective on the events that are shaping their world; their new Martian society. The personal struggles and political turmoil that comes with building a new world can be a little overly dramatic at times and bog the reader down. In the end though I'm glad that the characters don't take a secondary role and are in fact the main forces shaping Mars for what it will become. Without the diversity of characters and viewpoints this would have been just another fantastical sci-fi romp on another planet. Thankfully it is so much more than that.

The real meat of this book, however, are the descriptions of the alien landscape and science behind making Mars a place for human habitation. The descriptions will make you believe that you are seeing the sun setting on the polar dunes and looking down from the rim of Olympus Mons on the planet far below. You can practically hear it when a huge aquifer bursts and floods Valles Marineris with a roiling sea of ice and steaming water. It truly is a magnificent world that Robinson was able to build from the ground up. The technical details of their colonization and terraforming efforts are well thought-out. Full of the small details of geology, physics, genetic engineering, mechanical engineering, ecology, robotics, and spaceflight exhibit the research and our level of knowledge of Mars at the time the book was originally published (1993) that Robinson managed to include not as after thought, but as the main course. The detail wasn't confined to the sciences of terraforming. Robinson isn't afraid to explore the softer sciences of psychology of isolation, the economics of martian derived mining, and the politics of multinational corporations. What was really impressive to me was that Robinson managed to do all this without every talking down to the reader. I appreciate it when an author allows the reader to think with them and not force feed the reader into a particular scenario the author has predetermined is the right course.

Red Mars isn’t a perfect book, but there is so much in it that is great, it is certainly worth reading.


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message 1: by K (new)

K B Because it's a red planet is it also a communist society? BAM! This sounds like a Discovery Channel series. Also, Charelton Heston gets lost in space when they go for Mars, leading to his return to the Planet of the Apes. Just saying... maybe we should stick to this planet. Also, who does he say gets there first? Us or China? The Russians maybe? I can't imagine it's us after we just disbanded our Space Exploration programs.


Kevin Hey now we are about to unveil the first liquid rocket boosters in a generation with some real heavy lifting power >130 tons. I wouldn't say we are dead in the water just yet. Space truck was failed experiment that should have killed a decade ago. I'm still a little fuzzy on how Charelton Heston could have gotten lost on trip to our closest neighbor. I mean we only screwed up the metric to english standard units that one time. Really it is such an outlandish premise to base an entire movie on. A more probably explanation would have involved swamp gas.


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