Best of Science Fiction #52: Kim Stanley Robinson, “Red Mars”

Year of Publication: 1992
Subgenres: space, sci-fi proper, war

The premise: Near-future earth gets serious about colonizing Mars.

My experience: I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It took me on a decades-long journey of colonizing Mars: starting from the long journey through space, through the first few miserable years of hiding underground, to the “Hey, look, we’ve got a million people here!” And it felt very plausible and *almost* inspiring. It started to give me hope that terraforming Mars into something vaguely habitable might actually be possible–but then we had to go and throw in human nature. See, the author made the interesting choice to colonize Mars with a few genuinely insane people. Between the crazies, a few fantastical technologies (radical life extension anyone?), and  GloboRuinEverythingCo, by the end it was less “plausible and inspiring” and more “what in the world did I just read?”

There are roughly a bajillion characters to keep track of. The POV shifts frequently, but I don’t think I ever found myself in the head of a character I could relate to (see the whole “insane people” business). Whole pages are devoted to technical descriptions of the landscape. Put these together and I felt like I was reading a real-time strategy game. And the pacing is lumpy: there’s this huge war, a climatic lots-of-really-serious-explosions chapter, and then–rather than the expected quick ending and possibly epilogue–I found myself plodding across the planet on a tedious road trip. Bwuh?

So it’s far from perfect, but still, I think it’s worth reading. Especially since “the Martian” is the new hotness.

You would like this book if: You want to believe that terraforming is possible, and also want to believe that large corporations are evil

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