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April 26th, 2012, 11:56 AM #46
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.
April 26th, 2012, 03:26 PM #47
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- Apr 2012
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.
April 26th, 2012, 03:40 PM #48
Originally Posted by psikeyhacker
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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.
May 4th, 2012, 05:50 PM #49
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:
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
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.
Last edited by KatG; May 4th, 2012 at 05:52 PM.
May 4th, 2012, 09:11 PM #50
Yeah, that smuggling Coyote aboard the ship and his only being seen once in the whole trip to Mars was pretty silly.
July 7th, 2012, 02:01 AM #51
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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.
July 7th, 2012, 08:05 PM #52
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.
August 4th, 2012, 04:38 PM #53
2127. The Ross ice shelf has shattered due to volcanic activity and much of Antarctica's ice has fallen into the sea, raising global sea levels by seven metres. Three billion people - a fifth of the human race - have been displaced, triggering the greatest economic and humanitarian crisis in history. With Earth's governments and metanational corporations distracted, the colonists on Mars have launched their second revolution.
The surviving remnants of the First Hundred - whose lives have been extended vastly by genetic treatments - are spearheading the revolution. Their hope is to forge a new relationship with Earth based on mutual respect and understanding, but to the teeming billions of Earth Mars is an escape route, a place to begin again. In the aftermath of revolution, a new way of existence has to be found if the human race is to prosper.
Blue Mars is the third and concluding volume in Kim Stanley Robinson's epic Mars Trilogy, his account of the colonisation and terraforming of Mars extending across almost two centuries of human history. It opens with the Second Martian Revolution in full swing, picking up from the cliffhanger ending of Green Mars. The city of Burroughs has been flooded and most of the UN and metanat forces have been forced to pull back to the city of Sheffield atop Pavonis Mons, where a space elevator links Mars to space. The opening sequence of the book depicts the battle for Sheffield, which is followed by politicking as different factions from both Earth and Mars try to create a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Blue Mars is similar in general style to the first two books in the sequence, with atmospheric passages on the terraforming of Mars and descriptions of the ever-shifting environment coexisting with lengthy political musings and notable scenes of character development. Robinson focuses the somewhat rambling nature of Green Mars by presenting much of the third book through the viewpoints of two of the First Hundred: Sax Russell, the scientist-genius who made most of the terraforming possible and has been the leading advocate of the 'Green' position (the total terraforming of Mars); and Ann Claybourne, the geologist who has never believed that terraforming was moral and is the leading exponent of the 'Red' viewpoint. By the time of Blue Mars, with the planet's atmosphere mostly breathable and liquid oceans appearing in the north and in the vast Hellas Basin, it appears that Sax has won the argument by default, but Robinson challenges this by showing Sax's dissatisfaction with the process and his growing realisation that something special has been lost with the destruction of the 'old' Mars. Simultaneously, Claybourne realises - belatedly - the value of being able to experience Mars first-hand without the need for spacesuits.
The two viewpoints and their newfound convergence stands as a metaphor for the entire novel. The Martian position that immigration from Earth should be banned before it overwhelms their still-fragile biosphere, and the Terran position that their planet is choking to death on people and as many as possible need to be dumped off-world, likewise need to find common ground to the benefit of all, as do the tendencies of corporate-driven right-wing politics and those of the liberal left. If Blue Mars has a theme it is that compromise, if often unsatisfactory to everyone, is the only way that society can function and move forwards.
This may be stating the obvious, but Robinson nevertheless explores the theme in tremendous depth. The political bias which infested Red Mars is much more moderate here, with Robinson showing that the huge corporations do have some positive roles to play in the future affairs of both planets, although some traces of naivete remain, particularly when a right-on member of the First Hundred wins a debate by making some pithy remarks, awing his political opponents. Those who despise politics may find the novel a little dry for their tastes, but may also enjoy the growing cynicism of the First Hundred, whose lengthy lifespans have allowed them to see the cyclical nature of politics and social movements and grow bored with them.
It's arguable from the second volume that Robinson made a mistake in killing off his most dynamic POV characters in the first novel, with the surviving members of the First Hundred being a little too passive to embrace fully as protagonists. These lingering doubts are removed in this book, with Nadia, Maya, Michel and particularly Sax and Ann working well as our principal characters (with second-generation Nirgal and Art, a liaison with an Earth metanat, also putting in good work as viewpoint characters). Their extended lifespans, which could easily be dismissed as a convenient plot device to save Robinson the complexities of writing a multi-generational storyline, have come at a cost, one that Blue Mars dedicates a lot of its closing chapters to exploring. These long lives also give them a unique perspective on events, ranging from tried cynicism to delight at seeing new generations coming into the world, which Robinson enjoys exploring.
Like its predecessors, Blue Mars is as much a social textbook and a scientific treatise and thought-experiment as it is a novel. There are some dynamic action scenes earlier in the novel, but for most of the book events are slow-paced and descriptive. Robinson is describing the social, scientific, economic, philosophical and even military implications of the terraforming of Mars on a broad base. For those interesting in such matters, Blue Mars is as easy to recommend as its two predecessors. For those interested in a more straightforward, plotted novel with a much tighter focus across a smaller passage of time, Blue Mars is as likely to disappoint as Green Mars before it.
For myself, Blue Mars (****) is an effective conclusion to one of the most ambitious SF projects of all time. Robinson's writing is at its strongest in this novel, as he attempts to fuse hard SF with real literary ambition and comes close to succeeding. The concluding chapters in particular deliver a terrific emotional charge as, after two thousand pages, the story of these flawed people and the world they have transformed finally ends. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
August 5th, 2012, 08:50 AM #54
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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.
August 8th, 2012, 01:29 PM #55
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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.
August 9th, 2012, 11:14 AM #56
August 9th, 2012, 07:42 PM #57A 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.
It may have been done for convenience, but I think Robinson also took the subject seriously and made it plausible.