The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Werthead, Jun 21, 2010.

  1. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    A review of Kim Stanley Robinson's multipl-award-winning trilogy on the colonisation and terraforming of Mars.

    Red Mars

     
  2. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    To offer a brief dissenting opinion:

    I was extremely unimpressed with Red Mars. Though the technology descriptions were great, the politics and personalities were face-palmingly anachronistic (square-jawed American cowboy heroes who love fast cars, idealistic Russians seeking egalitarian utopia, spiritual Japanese woman seeking oneness with nature), the future-historical assumptions were as unrealistic as Wert says, and the character interactions were painfully stilted (the dialogue reads like a bunch of speeches). Basically, it reads like something written in the 1950s, but was actually written in the 1990s.

    Basically, this book (don't know about the other two) is great for those who want a realistic technical description of what it would be like to colonize Mars, and a big yawner for anyone who requires a good story and world background.
     
  3. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    I tried on three occasions to read Red Mars but couldn't finish the book. After failing to connect with Robinson's Galileo's Dream earlier in the year, I've come to realize my reading sensibilities just don't mesh with his writing.
     
  4. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

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    Completely agree with the above: I remember i slugged dutifully through volume 2 when it was published before flipping through volume 3 to see what happens and i stopped reading the author since - only recently gave a try to Galileo since i received a bunch of copies for some reasons and it had the same unreadable prose for me...
     
  5. phil_geo

    phil_geo Rat Thing

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    Any book that is dry and sedentary for the first 500 pages cannot make up for it in the last 100. No one should have to suffer through 5/6ths of a book to get to a good part. I am in the club that could not get past the booooooring writing.
    In Robinson's defense, I don't think he was trying to write an accurate time table prediction of the future, I think he just set it in the near future, but when the technology was feasible. He never claimed to be Hari Seldon!
     
  6. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    I read the first two, and skimmed the third.

    I enjoyed some of the dialogue in the first two, especailly the first 1/4 of Red Mars. He did capture my ideas of what the mood would be like on such an endevour.

    That's about all I enjoyed. Had all 3 been condensed into 1 volume and combined with more robots and explosions I would reccomend it.
     
  7. Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer Author of novels

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    I couldn't finish Red Mars either. Also, novels simply shouldn't have diagrams.
     
  8. Banger

    Banger Staff

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    Red Mars is a fascinating speculation on how Mars could be colonized, but I hate this type of characterization where the characters are little more than mouthpieces for certain viewpoints. Not only is such characterization uninteresting, it renders irrelevant the millions of people whose lives are impacted by the events in the novel.
     
  9. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    I would agree except for anathem.
     
  10. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    I thought Red Mars was great. This is why I think we need archetype books so we can come up with categories and people can figure out what categories THEY LIKE.

    It is like stories have foregrounds and backgrounds. The characters do and say things in the foreground but the background creates the situation that the characters must deal with. In Red Mars the background story is more important than the foreground story and foreground doesn't concentrate on a particular character or small number of characters, like the bridge crew in ST:TNG. It is like those 100 people are up against Mars and the history of humanity.

    But how much is it like the state of the world today but without the ability to get to Mars. All of the large scale human problems described in Red Mars are in the world today. I would be surprised if some method of doubling or tripling life expectancy is not found in this century. But what will the effect of that be?

    Good SF is about science, technology and what humanity does with it. If some people only want it as entertainment then they will probably ignore certain aspects that make it good as SCIENCE fiction. They are only interested in it as literature.

    That is why bad science makes bad science fiction regardless of how entertaining it is.

    One of the funniest things about Red Mars was in the voyage out where they all admit that they lied to the psychologists. The psychology class was referred to with a sexist derogatory term at the engineering school I attended because it was so easy. Everybody got at least a B and getting an A just required more idiotic busy work that probably wasn't worth the time when there was math and physics to do. But I have had conversations with psychologists. Sometimes I think psychology is the study of not thinking and psychologists expect people to be stupid. :D

    psik
     
  11. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    What?

    So science fiction shouldn't be too complicated or contain things that can be explained better with pictures. So maybe it shouldn't be possible to learn anything from SCIENCE fiction.

    psik
     
  12. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    Finally, someone agrees with Wert's review!

    Good thing too...I was starting to feel a bit guilty... :eek:
     
  13. phil_geo

    phil_geo Rat Thing

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    I greatly appreciate the time the official reviewers take to review novels on sffworld. However, I will say that it is very difficult to find a novel they don't recommend. They have a couple hundred books in their official reviews section, but after clicking on over 25, there weren't any they didn't like, including a few very weak novels. They almost always address the flaws in a book, but then thoroughly recommend it at the end. I've often wondered if it is a conscious effort to avoid offending an author, or some other reason.
     
  14. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    I can't speak for SFFWorld, but in my case if a book is truly excruciatingly awful I am simply unlikely to finish it, and if I don't finish the book, it doesn't get a review.

    Horses for courses. On other forums people are gushing with praise for the book and there isn't one bad word against it, on yet others opinions are more mixed.

    Helliconia has diagrams (admittedly in the appendix, not present in all editions of the book). Also, if a book can have maps, I don't see any reason why it can't have diagrams. The Mars calendar (the real-life one) is quite hard to visualise without a diagram, although the psychiatric diagrams in Michel's chapters were not very useful.
     
  15. Banger

    Banger Staff

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    I guess you missed my review of The Princes of the Golden Cage :eek:
     
  16. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    I personally think it's a good thing that so many books get good reviews. It's more important for reviewers to describe a book's strengths - and hence to steer people who'd like it toward reading it - than to warn people away from a bad book. I'd rather read 10 good books and try and discard 20 bad ones than read only 2 good books and no bad ones.
     
  17. beniowa

    beniowa Registered User

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    I quite enjoyed the Mars books when I read them years ago. Like Wert has admitted, much of it has not aged well, but I would still recommend them. I think Red Mars was probably the best. It gets a little boring later after the main parts of terraforming are complete.
     
  18. Solicitous

    Solicitous Registered User

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    I have read Red and Green Mars (Blue is sitting on my shelf from years ago unread). The books were ok in my opinion. Rather interesting in the ideas used to create a colonisation on Mars, but there wasn't really any page-turning story underneath, nothing that really made me want to keep reading. So if it wasn't for the 'scientific' aspects I doubt I would have finished Red Mars.
     
  19. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Well I like Robinson's writing. I really liked Antartica, which had great science but also interesting social stuff going on and good characters.

    But I did have a lot of problems with Red Mars. It wasn't so much the writing, which was okay, though not Robinson's best. The problem was that a lot of the science seemed quite off to me -- this came up in a conversation we had about big science blunders awhile back -- and the logistics of the mission were completely unrealistic. Ben Bova did slightly better in Mars and Mary Russell did far worse in The Sparrow, but all of these books seem to be riffing off Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which is an entertaining story that is a mess in terms of realistic world building. Essentially, they keep trying to make it like a colonizing expedition on some spot on Earth would be, except with Mars not having oxygen. In reality, the countries would keep much tighter control of a mission, it would be much more military, and you would not be able to set up hippy dippy utopia colonies like your Wild West frontier pioneers. You certainly wouldn't be able to sneak stuff onboard the spaceships. The progress the mission made on Mars was completely out of whack with how they'd do it, even in the 1990's.

    So for me, the story just doesn't end up making a lot of sense. The destructive love triangle is fine, but frankly it just becomes more and more of a surprise that all of these people aren't killed off within a very short span of time. And the Heinlein/Dick/etc. view that all these colonies will rebel against Mother Earth like the U.S. colonists against England -- it is a rather dated view and not very plausible.

    So some of the science I liked, some of the situations, the characters, enough perhaps that I might read the rest because I'd like to see more of the terraforming, but it was something of a disappointment for me. I'm more interested in reading some of his other works instead at this point. And I don't think it's really the definitive terra-forming work yet; I think we're still waiting for that. Maybe if we solve some of the problems down here first, like deep sea oil leaks.
     
  20. nquixote

    nquixote trolling > dissertation

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    I dunno, Kat. Seems to me that by far the most realistic story about human colonization of Mars is that...humans never colonize Mars.