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Book Review: Red Mars

August 11, 2011

Red Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars is the first book in a trilogy regarding the colonization of Mars (a rather crowded genre, and yes, I know, another sci-fi book – the next one is not, I swear!). Regularly labeled as literary fiction, his books tend to have strong scientific and ecological backgrounds. For example, his latest work explores the sociological and ecological impact of climate change on the Earth.

In this book, we follow the story of the “First Hundred” – the first hundred colonists to be sent to Mars. Sent jointly by the U.S. and Russia, the majority of the 100 come from those countries, but European nations, Japan, and many others are represented. Back on Earth, transnational corporations (many with semi-recognizable names to corporations today), have run rampant, with many controlling smaller countries in all but name. The book jumps between different people’s viewpoints as the story expands. And it expands quickly – we get a bit of the trip to Mars, the initial landing, and then very soon we are moving forward with the problems of colonization, including: new colonists coming, fights over the ecological impact of terraforming, the science behind actually terraforming Mars, as well as the politics of all these debates. The terraforming debates spawn the major political players in the book – the Reds, who support Mars, and are vaguely anarchist/communal, and their opponents, who are a bit more spread out in their beliefs but generally have a stronger connection to Earth.

Red Mars is a very, very detailed book. The science feels real (whether or not it is, I have no clue, but Robinson hits all the buzz words for the fields that I have a clue about), the people all have believable conflicts which drive the story, with real, human issues to contend with. The political factions that develop seem plausible, and provided needed “push” for the story, as does a specific “breakthrough” which I will not spoil here.

Overall, if you ever wanted to read a book about Mars, this is one to go to. Red Mars  won one of the major SF/F awards, the Nebula Award. Each of its sequels won the Hugo and the Locus – so the series has garnered some well deserved kudos.

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