I finished the first volume of the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson quicker than I expected; I finished it last night. I then started Green Mars as well. I have already read 100 pages of the second book.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I really enjoyed this book. It was very entertaining and I kept wanting to know more.
Naturally, since I enjoy hard science-fiction, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to like this book.
It was well written as well.
I enjoyed how each part took the point of view of a different character in the first hundred.
Though I am sure that Mars is an incredibly beautiful, as we can all attest thanks to the beautiful footage that we have received back from the Mars langers, I find that parts of the book involving constant travel through the Martian landscape a bit long.
For some reason, I was reminded of the troupe movements in War and Peace by Tolstoy.
Not that the passages in Red Mars were anywhere near as long as those, they do take the reader out of the flow of what happens in the story.
The really good part was that this novel does not concentrate on technology but on people and social issues, which would most certainly arise if Earth ever colonized Mars.
Red Mars starts in 2026 with the first colonial voyage to Mars. Later, “the First Hundred” colonists (composed for the most part of Russians and Americans) establish the first settlement on Mars (called “Underhill”) and lay the groundwork for more scientists and engineers to follow. However, due to the greed of the transnational corporations, which dominate and control the nation states of Earth, the new Martian towns become overcrowded and undermaintained. Several cases of sabotage of terraformation infrastructure occur, blamed on anti-terraforming forces. The situation results in a violent revolution in 2061, in which many of the First Hundred are killed, and much of Mars’ infrastructure, notably the space elevator, is destroyed. Most of the surviving members of the First Hundred are forced into hiding in the “underground”.
This basically means that they are good books. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be reading them as fast.
Red Mars is the story of the colonization of Mars, starting in 2026 with the first hundred colonists sent over through space. The book concerns itself less with technology and more with the social aspects of colonization; how people on Earth would react, what happens when scientists try to establish a new society and how companies will try to exert their influence.
The first book covers about 40 years, from the initial departure from Earth to the first Martian revolution in 2061.
We follow Maya, John Boone, Frank Chalmers and Nadia through the first few years of the colony. Maya, John and Frank are the de facto leaders of the colony, but Frank is the official one for the US contingent. Maya leads the Russian one.
At first, they have to establish some basic infrastructure. This takes a few years. After that, they christen Underhill, the first town. Once they are on Mars, a fierce debate over whether to terraform Mars begins, with Sax Russell and others for it and Ann Clayborne against it.
Ann wishes Mars to remain unspoiled by human presence, but this will not work out because by their simple presence, the humans are changing Mars. The UN, which runs the Mars operation through UNOMA (United Nations Organization Mars Authority), decides to go ahead will full terraformation efforts and Sax Russell becomes their representative on Mars.
This totally breaks down when the characters in the book discover that the transnationals are using flags of convenience to get on Mars anyway. Transnationals are the giant zaibatsu type mega corporations that head most of the nation states on Earth, similar to a Cyberpunk 2020 setting.
Arkady Bogdanov’s team went to Phobos to construct a space station. They come back to Mars after a year and say that they should be rotated out. This is hard, because no one wants to go to Phobos.
Phyllis continues her Christian philosophies while she constructs a space elevator which would put Mars back into the scope of Earth. She peddles influence and wants to become the ruler of Mars. When the space elevator is operational, thousands of emigrants come to Mars, more and more.
John Boone did not take the UN position; Sax Russell did. So John investigates the hidden colonies for Sax.
Maya could never make up her mind between John and Frank. And at the end, she ends up alone for a time being, but always gravitates back to John. She has been with Frank and this makes him extremely jealous, though he hides it well.
The first hundred become extremely factionalized, and Hiroko, who smuggled the Coyote on the trip to Mars on the ship Ares, has founded a strange religion centered on Mars veneration and procreation. She invites Michel, the French homesick psychologist, to come with them and founds the first hidden colony. We don’t hear of her again until the end of the novel. We know that she created children, and is supposedly pregnant at all times, if you believe the rumors about her.
Vlad and Ursula come up with longevity treatments, which are offered at Archeron to all first hundred. The news gets back to Earth and just adds fuel to the fire; Earth is being eaten up by wars raging all over the continents.
John Boone is assassinated by an Egyptian, who was influenced by Frank. Frank had enough of being in John’s shadow, so he decided to take matters in his own hand.
More and more towns and people are disappearing into the wild. Whole towns just pack up and leave. Where do they go? They join existing hidden colonies or make up their own.
Arkady Bodganov advocates independence by any means necessary, and this comes to the front of the political scene on Mars when towns and tent cities start declaring themselves independent and a civil war erupts on Mars in 2061.
The space elevator is destroyed and Clarke, the asteroid in orbit that was used as a base, is sent off into space. The cable comes down to Mars. It’s 37000 KM long.
UNOMA forces and corporate armies move in and start killing the population of Mars. They target the first hundred and a lot of them are slain. They think that the first hundred are the ringleaders of the revolution. This forces the surviving members of the first hundred to go underground and join the hidden colonies of Hiroko to survive.
The UNOMA forces are using Phobos as a base to launch lasers and guided missiles to destroy rebel towns. When Nadia discovers that Arkady was one of the first to die, when UNOMA hyper oxygenated their air and set them on fire, she sends off the signal to detonate Phobos; Arkady constructed the space station and he had laced it with explosives.
Phobos impacts on Mars, creating even more panic.
During their escape from Cairo in 2061, Frank Chalmers the US Secretary dies. Nadia, Maya, Ann, Simon and Sax make it out alive and join Hiroko.
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