Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Werthead, Jun 21, 2010.
Pshhht. I am unsympathetic. You have no one to blame for that judgment error but yourself.
Reading Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel, 2312, and surprisingly it seems to be set in the same timeline as The Mars Trilogy. There's talk about the Martian Revolution of a century earlier, the disintegration of the Antarctic ice sheets (which happened in Green Mars), discussion of the longevity treatments and updates on the terraforming of Venus and Titan (proposed in Blue Mars).
No characters from the original trilogy have shown up and the references are light (and Mars doesn't actually appear in the book, with the emphasis being on the rest of the Solar system), so it may be just Easter eggs for long-term fans. Still, interesting.
Green and Blue Mars are the only Hugo winning novels I have not read. I have tried twice to get into Red Mars unsuccessfully. There is discussion in General Fiction about Moby Dick and how hard it is to get into. It was a little hard but then it gets rolling. The three Mars books seem like too much of a haul. So far no one has said “It starts out slow but….”.
We need more detailed categories of science fiction.
There are stories which are entertaining in a "interesting" kind of way and those which are entertaining in an "exciting" kind of way. The Mars Trilogy is mostly the former, but a lot of people regard that as "boring". So this comes to the mentality of the reader. Some authors can do a good job of mixing the two but they are somewhat rare. I think Bujold did a great job of that with Komarr. But most of the reviews don't even mention the scientific perspective in the story. Bujold even slips it in a little in The Vor Game where she talks about the tactical computer and the map not being the territory.
Serious intelligent sci-fi does not sell big.
How can the Mars books and a Harry Potter book get Hugos?
Please tell me you are not suggesting serious intelligent sci-fi (or any genre) has to equal boring or unreadable.
I would not suggest that either Green or Blue Mars did not deserve the Hugo. I have not read either or any of the other nominees.
On the other hand I have read the Harry Potter book and at least one of the nominees which I think is much better.
One of these years I will actually vote so I can legitimately complain.
P.S. I am also not suggesting Green Mars and Blues Mars are boring and unreadable. I just can't get to them because Red Mars is boring and unreadable.
I have read all three. If that is your opinion of Red Mars then you will probably come to the same conclusion about the others if you try to read them.
I have read two Harry Potter books. The first one and Order of the Phoenix I think. The one where a woman takes over the school and changes the curriculum. I have seen 6 of the movies, on cable or net download. I didn't go to the theatre for that. I read the first book to compare to the movie and the other to see what Rowling really said regarding education. I consider the movies to be good interpretations of the books. They weren't BAD but not good enough to read either. They just satisfied my curiosity about the Potter phenomenon.
But I consider Andre Norton to be a better story teller than Rowling. I concentrate on the story more than the writing. I can't comprehend how the junk got so big. That much money put into making the Mars Trilogy would be really cool. But then it would be lost at the box office because it is boring. But even Mack Reynolds is better than Andre Norton.
I mostly agree with this sentiment. I'm a huge space geek for exploration and colonialization, and appreciated Red Mars for its technical detail and scientific plausibility (even if the ease of success was greatly exagerrated). I figured Kim Stanley Robinson to be a scientist who tried his hand at fiction, and was surprised to discover that he was actually a Lit PHD who just did his homework and did it well. Of course, I also thought he was a woman judging by his first name, so two strikes for me.
Someone else said that it's called SCIENCE Fiction for a reason, and therefore should be expected to have scientifically plausible ideas. Fair enough, and it's refreshing to see some hard SF in an age where space adventures with a disregard for actual science are the norm. But it is also Science FICTION, which is to say that the quality of the story should not be sacrificed in the name of technical description, which is what I felt happened in Red Mars.
For an example of a Hard SF book that strikes a happy medium, I would highly recommend Contact by the late great astrophysicist, Carl Sagan (which is quite different from the movie, which I also like). I'd also recommend the movie Moon.
The HP movies actually turned me off to reading the books for a long time, which is too bad because I eventually loved the books when I got around to reading them.
By contrast, I loved reading LOTR but generally speaking found the movies to be too long, over indulgent, and grandiose for my tastes.
Generally speaking, I don't trust adaptations to be a very good gauge as to whether or not I'll like the books.
I read Red Mars and I was eager to read it, as I had read and liked other Robinson novels, particularly Anartica. I find his writing to be good, usually, maybe not quite at the David Brin, Dan Simmons levels, but definitely above a lot of SF writers. And I like his characters most of the time, and find them interesting, their pov's well done.
In Red Mars, the characters were okay, though as nquixote says they were kind of archetypical. Robinson's attempt to have a sociopathic main character who sets in motion most of the action was kind of interesting, if not always quite pulled off. The writing, though, was several notches down for me from what Robinson has done in other books. It wasn't the time leaps in structure, which was fine, but perhaps because Robinson tries to throw in a lot of anthro psychoanalysis material in there, with contrasting political ideologies, it gets very bogged down, reminding me more and more of the problems in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Nonetheless, the reason I was very disappointed in Red Mars, though, was not the writing or the characters but the science and the story. I did not find the science to be particularly good in the book. Some of it was and Robinson had clearly done his research, but the set-up and much that happens in the book seemed highly unlikely to occur. The book doesn't spend that much time on the terraforming -- it's mostly concerned with the political developments, all of which I found to be implausible. As I said earlier in this long thread:
Some of the science was really a problem, like the air ship incident we've discussed elsewhere which was implausible to me from an engineering, physics point of view. The algae was scientifically sound, but Robinson tended to use it as a bit of a magic wand in the development of the colonies. The abilities of these sub-colonies and the rebellion, as I've said before, just don't work at all.
So I still have not gotten around to continuing with the trilogy. I regard Red Mars as an interesting work conceptually, but very uneven in execution and okay in writing.
Yeah, that smuggling Coyote aboard the ship and his only being seen once in the whole trip to Mars was pretty silly.
Wow, I must be clueless, because I didn't realize the archetypal nature of the characters (except Arkady) until it was mentioned in this thread!
I myself rather like KSR's long tangents of sociopolitical, anthropological, and psychological profundity, and they help enrich the background behind the plot. Of course I agree with his political leanings so that helps! He did, however, make a very annoying factual error in claiming the Minoans were matriarchal.
I also wasn't able to finish the book. Once they reached mars, and started focusing more on those two guys fighting over that one broad, it was a wrap for me. To this day I feel guilty for not finishing it. To the author's credit though, the technical descriptions of the terraforming and what have you were great.
Of the Mars trilogy I found Blue Mars the most unsatisfactory. Why? Because it went onto explore the rest of the Solar System, without, in my humble opinion have the depth of research done that was done for the planet Mars itself.
Why do I say this?
I recently wrote an SF novel on Miranda (5th largest moon circling the planet Uranus), where I did the research and was amazed at how many issues were unexplored. Robinson has a scene on Miranda where it is a designated national park i.e. it had the "developers not welcome here" sign. Even with this limitation, I felt that there was so much scenery that could have been picked on to make it more of a fantastical wondermoon (is there such a word?), that it felt awfully drab when I got to recently rereading that scene.
You may say that Robinson had the excuse that he couldn't know any better... um... no... Voyager 2 passed by Uranus in 1986 taking those photos of the strange coronae long before he wrote that scene. So he had as much information for his scene as I had for my (as yet unpublished) novel.
I know this is only one example scene from Blue Mars, but given that the writing voice does not noticeably change, I have my suspicions about the other places he visits in Blue Mars failing in a similar manner.
Having said all that, it's still a good book to read - just not up there amongst the best in my view.
A plot device that bothered me was the genetic enhancement drug that allowed all the main characters to live thrrough hundreds of years of Mars' development. It struck me as deus ex machina. Robinson wanted to explore a couple centuries of life on Mars but didn't want to lose his main characters. Presto! Wonder drug. Besides the overpopulation problems this would eventually cause (which I suppose they try to explain via cost keeping down availability) it might have been more interesting to see an inter-generational narrative similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude.
A minor gripe in the scheme of things. There are other areas of this trilogy that hamper it as a story, which have been covered in this thread and which I won't rehash. But if nothing else, you certainly have to appreciate the ambition and scope of Robinson's work.
This is 5 years old.
I think it might have been created by Robinson for that purpose, but it's also clearly something that is going to happen in the future, with a lot of science laid down for it already. Pretty much every single SF writer writing stories set more than a couple of decades in the future is now taking it on board as a major theme. Robinson also does fully engage with the idea and deals at length (for some readers, possibly too much length) with the issues of population control, overcrowding, memory retention, how people treat famous people from centuries earlier still walking around etc.
It may have been done for convenience, but I think Robinson also took the subject seriously and made it plausible.
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