OK! I have got to blow that pseudo-science fiction Hyperion crap out of my head.
It's time for some nitty-gritty REAL Science Fiction on a gritty planet.
Mars has been in the scope of science fiction since H. G. Wells let those allergic aliens invade us. Kim Stanley Robinson has probably done the best job of returning the favor but he did not provide us with creepy aliens to stomp.
Although Robinson provides us with interesting characters they are not the center of focus to the story as they are in Hyperion. These characters are tech-types out to conquer a planet and it is a killer planet. Nowhere near enough air, too cold, no plants, no easily accessible water. If you don't have the right brains and the right equipment YOU ARE DEAD! In Hyperion people had problems mostly because of other people or because of technology created by people. In Red Mars people are up against the cold hard indifference of the REAL, and they are out to win. Red Mars is too techy for some people. I think it is great.
I thought the poet in Hyperion was as funny as hell even though he was thoroughly obnoxious. I guess that must mean I am thoroughly obnoxious. Too bad, deal with it. LOL There is no character in Red Mars that I like nearly as well. The same goes for a couple of other Hyperion characters. But I much prefer Red Mars over all. I can easily imagine the events in Red Mars actually occurring in the next 200 years. Not those exact characters doing those exact things but the beginnings of the terraforming and colonization of Mars, yes. Hyperion is just an unbelievable but entertaining fantasy. I have read good things about Ben Bova's Mars but have not read it but I think Robinson has done science realism in science fiction about as well as it can be done.
The story is about 100 men and women making the expedition to Mars in a single ship. They were preceded by an unspecified number of ships landing equipment and supplies on the planet all ready for them to set up and use. Thus begins the first Martian town. But the politics begins while they are still on the ship. What kind of society are they going to create millions of miles from Earth? It is not like anyone back home can really tell them what to do and enforce if. So obviously they succeed after various trials, tribulations, adventures and misadventures but eventually more people are sent, but they are
The First Hundred!
They are Legends!
But then the commercial interests want to move in on Mars and things begin to get more and more complicated. But Earth has its own problems and it is still too expensive to ship masses people to Mars so the red planet can't really do anything about Earth's population problem. But the silly Martians have to go and make things worse. They invent immortality, or something close enough for all practical purposes. If you figure out how to make people live 400 years what are the chances they will live long enough until the technology develops to make 4000 years possible. But what will that do to the Earth's population problem?
So Robinson gives us a pretty good description of a revolt by the Martians. Red Mars ends with the war on Mars winding down but in the mean time there were nukes thrown around on Earth and there are no details about how bad it got. But the weapons used on Mars released water from aquifers and disrupted the terraforming plans so the effects on Mars will have to be explained in future stories.
So although Red Mars leaves unanswered questions it does not boot you into space without a clue like Hyperion does. But the destruction of the space elevator is just so cool. It is even better than Rodney McKay blowing up a solar system.
That review calls the characters "soap opera like" and I have to agree. But the main characters of this book are really Mars and humanity, not piddling individual humans. How do you create a techno-culture on Mars because Mars will kill you without the technology and the brains to use it properly?
Arthur C. Clarke himself wrote of Red Mars: "A staggering book... the best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written... It should be required reading for the colonists of the next century."
PS - For the mundanes among us who do not recognize the "Earther blood" business, that quote is from Babylon 5. .
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Sep 18, 2009
Jul 21, 2014 10:59 PM UTC
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The first installment in Robinson's ( Blind Geometer ) new trilogy is an action-packed and thoughtful tale of the exploration and settlement of Mars--riven by both personal and ideological conflicts--in the early 21st century. The official leaders of the "first hundred" (initial party of settlers) are American Frank Chalmers and Russian Maya Katarina Toitova, but subgroups break out under the informal guidance of popular favorites like the ebullient Arkady Nikoleyevich Bogdanov, who sets up a base on one of Mars's moons, and the enigmatic Hiroko, who establishes the planet's farm. As the group struggles to secure a foothold on the frigid, barren landscape, friction develops both on Mars and on Earth between those who advocate terraforming, or immediately altering Mars's natural environment to make it more habitable, and those who favor more study of the planet before changes are introduced. The success of the pioneers' venture brings additional settlers to Mars. All too soon, the first hundred find themselves outnumbered by newcomers and caught up in political problems as complex as any found on Earth.