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  1. #1
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Red Mars - I was disappointed

    I've lately been going back and reading a bunch of famous books that I'd overlooked or just never got around to reading. I just got to Red Mars.

    This felt like a book that was written in the 50s or 60s. The portrayal of American culture was archaic ("John Boone/Went to the moon/No fast cars/He went to Mars"...need I say more?). The notion of socialist-utopian Russians was horribly out of date (even more so than the idea of Russian-American cooperation as the future of space travel; where's China?). The portrayal of the (single!) Asian character was embarrassingly mystical-Orientalist. Information technology was basically not a factor. Keep in mind that this was written in 1993 - the same year as A Fire Upon the Deep. How can a book be decades out of date the day it hits the shelves?

    After 150 pages, I had to put it down. I just couldn't take the book seriously as a work of speculative fiction. I think Robinson should have actually set the book in 1993, and made it a retro-futurist thing.

  2. #2
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    I remember that I read the books (the whole trilogy though books 2 and 3 most likely very fast, just to see what happens) around publication date in the mid 90's and while information technology was still in its infancy as the internet goes (even the example of Fire Upon the Deep has Usenet like stuff which is embarrassing today imho) and the retro feel did not bother me overtly, I found the books just boring and KSR went on the avoid list ever since

  3. #3
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Cue long list of "I enjoyed/hated* Red Mars" (* delete as appropriate) posts..

    I really enjoyed Red Mars. It's easy to pick holes in any book 10 years+ old that is attempting a high level of predictive realism, especially one written, as has been pointed out, on the cusp of the IT revolution. American culture often seems boorish and archaic in SF and I just got used to that over the years. The novel itself was 50% fascinating, which is quite a high margin for such a large book. Robinson is a precise and elegant writer, if a little schmaltzy with his characters at times, and I have great visual memories of Mars from the few weeks I spent reading it. Having said that, I have not had the urge to read the others two yet.

  4. #4
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    I read it in the 90's and thought it was terrific. I just took it for what it is, an absorbing, epic space drama. Any inconsistencies with the real world went right over my head.

    I read Green Mars about 6 months later but still haven't read Blue. It's been so long that I'm sure I'd have no idea who's who if I tried to pick it up now.

  5. #5
    I gave up on it, it was so slow....

  6. #6
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackVoid View Post
    I gave up on it, it was so slow....
    Thing is, I really like slow books. Anathem, A Deepness in the Sky, and The Dispossessed are among my favorite books, and they're all just about as slow as Red Mars.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    Thing is, I really like slow books. Anathem, A Deepness in the Sky, and The Dispossessed are among my favorite books, and they're all just about as slow as Red Mars.
    maybe slow is the wrong word for Red Mars, while tedious is more appropriate..

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by suciul View Post
    maybe slow is the wrong word for Red Mars, while tedious is more appropriate..
    Maybe it has to do with one's eagerness to reach the resolution. If the setup is preposterous, one assumes that the resolution will be equally so, and so one's desire to keep turning the pages diminishes...

  9. #9
    I do not mind slow if I like the writing/setting/world/characters. I liked Deepness in the Sky despite the slowness, because the setting was REALLY interesting. I liked Neverness despite the slowness, because the writing and the world were fascinating. I also liked Book of the New Sun series despite the slowness, because the main character and the world got me hooked.

    Its always a personal thing, that's why I do not like reading reviews and do not care much about awards.

  10. #10
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I like Robinson's writing very much -- his Antarctica might change some minds here -- and there's a bunch of his books that I want to get to, The Years of Rice and Salt particularly, which is very highly thought of in SF. But I also read Red Mars and was disappointed in it.

    My disappointment came not from his writing, though it wasn't as adept in Red Mars as in others I've read of his, nor in technical gaffes, though there were quite a few and we've discussed them in previous threads here. My problem was that it was supposed to be about the exploration and then initial terraforming of Mars, but the story was structured as an expedition that could not have possibly happened, with people doing things that they would never be allowed to do by Earth's governments, etc. He seemed to be going for some sort of dystopian take on Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress mixed with aspects of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Consequently, the really interesting things in the novel that some of the scientists were doing got shoved into the background in favor of his focus on a love-obsessed sociopath trying to do social engineering.

    I don't usually base critiques on complaining about what an author chooses to do. If an author wants to go in a certain direction, then I examine the story from that direction, not from where I want to go. But in this case, the direction the story took just seemed rather a mess, and it was hard to buy that these people survive on the planet, given their lack of resources and their behavior. The sort of hippie culture developing worked much better in Antarctica, and the characters there were better thought out, it seemed to me. I guess overall I'd say that I had the same problems with Red Mars that I did with Mary Russell's The Sparrow -- I couldn't buy the expedition in the first place, and that made the rest hard to get into, despite some good writing or a good character here or there.

    However, I am tempted to check out Green and Blue Mars, the following parts, just to see what happens next with the planet's development. It might possibly get better. And while I might, based on Red Mars, see Robinson as an uneven writer, he's got an enviable track record and some of his experiments are worth checking out, as is his shorter fiction, which tends to be very good in my opinion.

  11. #11
    Statistician Luonas's Avatar
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    The Mars-triology is great sci-fi, focusing on the dream man has of a better future and how different cultures evolve on the planet. I would rate them Green, Red and Blue. The whole terraforming part was well done and the character of Sax probably my favourite.

    I would say it is better than Rice and Salt, even if that book have some great parts as well.

  12. #12
    Green Mars and Blue Mars are the only Hugo winners I have not read (except for the one that just won). I feel that I need to read Red Mars first. I have tried twice and failed to get past the first several pages. The prospect is daunting.

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