Red Mars (Magill Book Reviews)
Kim Stanley Robinson begins his projected trilogy about Marswith a fascinating account of the first thirty years of Martiancolonization, beginning in about 2026.
The main themes of personal and policy conflicts tend to focuson nine characters from among the original one hundred colonists. Most of these characters become leaders of factions that representconflicting views about human nature, about whether Mars should bemainly an object of study or be terraformed to support human life,about whether the colonists should start a new society orreestablish old institutions.
Those favoring terraforming carry the day as expandingpopulation, resource depletion, and the increasing power oftransnational corporations come to dominate government policies. Mars is seen as a new America, a site of colonization andexploitation by the old world. While advancing technology makesterraforming possible in a relatively short time, political andsocial conflicts, influenced to some extent by personal conflicts,lead to social and ecological catastrophe that leave the colonialcities devastated and at war.
The novel is epic in proportions, offering a cosmic overview ofplanetary colonization based on extensive reading about Mars andplausible speculation about technological developments in the nearfuture. However, it lacks the sort of epic storytelling ofanalogues such as James Fenimore Cooper’s THE PIONEERS or FrankHerbert’s DUNE. The characters and their...
(The entire section is 294 words.)
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Red Mars (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Red Mars is the first novel in Kim Stanley Robinson’s projected trilogy, which will include Green Mars and Blue Mars. The book’s main strength is its detailed depiction of Mars, based on Robinson’s study of materials gathered from Viking and Mariner flights. Robinson vividly captures the wonder and the challenge to the human imagination of coming to know and learning how to live in an alien landscape. The picture of Mars he presents is technically detailed and extensive, so that often the novel becomes a kind of travelogue with expert commentary on geology, climatology, engineering of various kinds, and genetics, among other sciences. This material is woven into a narrative that operates on two main levels: the epic story of the first thirty years of Martian colonization and a group of sometimes less interesting narratives of adventure and personal relationships.
Robinson begins in the middle, with the assassination of John Boone, about twenty-five years after the first hundred colonists land on Mars. Frank Chalmers arranges the murder and effectively hides his own involvement. His main motive is to eliminate a rival for leadership. Frank sees himself as a political realist, believing that people are motivated mainly by selfishness. He seems to want a just society, but he assumes that this can be achieved only by the ruthless exercise of political power, balancing destructive forces of government and business against each...
(The entire section is 1811 words.)