Shannon's Reviews > Red Mars

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
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's review
Dec 11, 2011

really liked it

Hard science fiction is well known for prioritizing science content above all else. Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, is one of the better examples of this predisposition, though that is by no means a bad thing, even if at times the story’s lag is severe.
Red Mars begins its trilogy by telling the story of the initial colonization and terraforming of Mars. It opens with the first hundred settlers building the first settlement on Mars, continues through their various debates to initial terraforming efforts. It continues into further immigration and the construction of a space elevator for ease of transport between Earth and Mars. As society grows on Mars, Earth erupts into chaos thanks to resource starvation and overpopulation, and the governments of several countries fall under corporate control. This is complicated by the development of a longevity treatment on Mars with the potential to expand life spans by centuries. The influx of immigration begins to threaten Martian society, and a revolution against increasingly-present corporate forces begins. Over this basic plot, themes about beauty, culture, and politics are raised, along with the underlying message that humans will fail badly if many things are not corrected.
As mentioned before, the story excels through science and political content alone. If you read this, you will likely learn something new, most likely at the point of a lengthy discussion on the Four Temperaments psychiatric model on pages 196-199. However, the book’s other flaws can be at times severe- For example, the discussion on the Four Tempermants also makes for rather dull reading- “Why –s was a simple not s, and _s was stronger not –s; while -_s was, for Michel, the skull-cracking negation of a negation” (pg. 196) That line can be difficult to comprehend, even in context. Also, Robinson persistently attempts to write romances all through the book, and no matter how realistic it may be in similar circumstances in reality, watching these past-middle-age individuals acting like obnoxious teenagers all through the book can seriously detract from the book’s other aspects.
Overall, the book is good for those with an intense interest in science- especially geology- and politics. The book is so full of these things, from major plot points to small details, that you will probably learn something. However, it is not casual reading, and to pick it up expecting such would be a mistake.
Red Mars, as a book, excels on the sheer amount of research that went into its creation alone. If you would be interested in reading a book that prioritizes displaying this research above and beyond anything else I would recommend this book whole-heartedly.

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