Last month I finished a fantastic science fiction book I had been reading for three months. As it is the first part of a trilogy, I think I will stay on the Red planet for a long time.
Kim Stanley Robinson is a sheer genius and if you like sci-fi, I strongly recommend you reading his books. However, he is quite a fond of science, real science.
His book is thus literally packed with data on Mars itself, but also on many sciences including genetics, bio-engineering, and yes dear reader, environmental questions.
And then, we have a winner as it combines my strong interest for environment as well as science fiction, which is my favorite genre with thrillers.
According to a French website dedicated to science fiction – Cafard Cosmique [Fr] – Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the three major 1900s writers with Ian M Banks (unknown to me) and Dan Simmons. I didn’t like Simmons’ books for the reasons I evocated in 2007 : way too gore and way too sadistic.
But Mr. Robinson is far from that. The Mars trilogy comprises no less than two Hugo awards and a Nebula award. Hugo are a sign of quality for the science fiction genre. Indeed, it was also awarded to A Deepness in the Sky and A Fire Upon the Deep, two fantastic books I previously reviewed here.
Red Mars begins in 2026 with the expedition of a hundred scientists to Mars. The main characters are mainly of American and Russian nationalities, but there are also French and Japanese people.
They colonize the Red planet together but soon they differ on a vital topic : should the planet be adapted to human life and thus terraformed ? Two groups form themselves : the Red, which are willing to let Mars untouched, and the Greens which are willing to modify it so it suits us perfectly.
An aspect that I particularly loved is the settlement of the colons. It is in this aspect quite similar to the Mysterious Island by Jules Verne I reviewed there. It is terribly modern as it uses all the data comes from years of research on neighboring planet as well as on various sciences.
Conclusion : If you like science fiction and appreciates realistic stories with a lot of science, complexity of the characters’ psychology and their relationships, you will love this book. Be sure that I will review here the second and third part of the trilogy as soon as I will have read them.
Grade : 19/20
Re-readability : Yes.
Original title, available in French : Mars la Rouge.
Many thanks to Tim for inviting me to read this book.
3 thoughts on “Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson”
Hi Edouard, I’m really glad you liked it and as you said, with two (big) volumes to go, you’ll stay on the Red Planet for a while… unless it becomes green or even blue 😉
I agree with most of your review, nevertheless I would like to point something out. It seem to me that you present the different points of view on what to do with Mars in a slightly “Manichean ” way. I would say it is way more complex and disparate than that. As you said, some (of the colons) are radically against the Terraforming and some are fanatically for it, but you also find a bunch of persons in between, willing to give Mars some more “earthy” conditions (mainly a light atmosphere to protect the colons against Cosmic Radiations but not enough to enable unsupported breathing) without reaching a complete Terraforming which would completely transform its nature. This middle point of view is also very important since it allows the novel to be more than just a masterpiece for those who are thrilled by science-fiction and scientific precision. This novel is also of great interest for its vision on politics (in its pure definition i.e. “relation between people”), how people deal with the loss of governance and the opportunity to build a civilization “from scratch”.
Finally and to come back on the scientific precision, those books are so well documented that while following the Phoenix Twitter or reading the descriptions of the pictures related to Mars on the Astronomy picture of the day webpage, you sometime feel like saying “hey, I know that, I’ve been there too” 😀
Thanks Tim for your comment. Sorry if my review wasn’t as full as it should have been.
I just wanted to give people the will to read it and therefore didn’t want to write too much on the book and let the possible readers discover it.
Thanks for the additional data and information ! 😛
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