Red Mars (Mars Trilogy book 1)

Monday, January 8, 2018


Red Mars (Mars Trilogy book 1)
Kim Stanley Robinson, 1993

Premise: Humanity’s first colony on Mars imports many of Earth’s problems, despite the colonists’ efforts.

This book was not a Hugo winner, but both its sequels were. It tells the story of the first Martian colony, following members of the “first hundred” from the journey through years of growth and into a major crisis.

I had some trouble getting into this book at the beginning. I actually started it three times before I got past the first section. It starts in the middle of the story, and even though that section was exciting in terms of what happened, I didn’t know any of the characters yet, and I didn’t connect with what was going on.

After that, it jumped back to the beginning of the mission and introduced all the characters. Each section was from a different perspective. I especially liked Nadia the practical mechanic-minded person, and I really liked Anne the ecologist’s section near the end. By the end I liked everyone to some degree. I’m even glad to have the slightly twisted perspective of the guy who seemed like a villain at the beginning.

The plot didn’t completely hang together; it’s more a series of vignettes around a theme than a story. It slowly built the picture of the changes and opportunities, as well as the problems, on Mars.

It sounds as though I didn’t like it. I did like it quite a bit, but it was a very unusual book in structure and tone.

One thing that was particularly interesting upon reflection: there would be a way to tell a more direct story of the founding and change in the colony over time, one that would have focused on action and decision. That would be the story with heroes and villains - the version of the story that might be in a history book. But that wouldn’t be the true story. The true story is many little decisions. Personal antipathy that grows for no real reason over time. Alliances and unspoken positions. Economic forces you can’t predict. And humans, trying their best, putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s the story, and it’s why this was a rewarding read.

4 Stars - A Good Book

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