Red Mars

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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 struggles are lessinteresting finally than the general human encounter with Mars. This book is not a “page-turner,” but Robinson’s picture of Marsand his view of Earth’s future have much to offer a patientreader.

Sources for Further Study

Analog. CXIII, July, 1993, p.248.

Fantasy and Science Fiction. LXXXV, July, 1993, p.35.

Locus. XXX, October, 1992, p.19.

New Scientist. CXXXVII, January, 1993, p.50.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, January 31, 1993, p.25.

Science Fiction Chronicle. XIV, February, 1993, p.32.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 2, 1992, p.20.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, February 28, 1993, p.6.