March 07, 2004

Red Mars

It took me about two months, I think, or maybe three, but I finally finished slogging my way through the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This trilogy consists of three lengthy books, "Red Mars", "Green Mars" and "Blue Mars". Overall, it was something to read, but the payoff wasn't worth the time I invested in it.

The overall plot, which covers a time period on the order of 200 years, is that a hundred initial settlers are sent to Mars to begin a long-term terraforming project. As Mars transforms into a more habitable world, the structure of society on the planet changes as dramatically as Mars does (the symbolism is laced throughout the text). Many of the first settlers survive for the entire series, thanks to longevity treatments developed by Martian scientists. That's a bit of a relief, because there were about ten too many major characters to begin with.

I wish the book had focused more on the most enjoyable characters to read about, like John Boone and Sax Russell (and to a lesser extent Coyote and Maya). These two are given quite a bit of time, especially Sax in the final book, but it was hard to keep my interest. I found myself without much motivation to read this series for days at a time, hoping when I picked it up again that it would get back to something interesting.

Parts of the series make for interesting short stories. In fact, because Robinson tends to focus on one character for a long time (instead of intercutting between various threads) and because of the long timescale covered, the vast scope of events, etc., it really does feel like I'm reading a short story anthology. And I don't really like short stories all that much. The quality was hit (and there were some very satisfying hits, to be sure) and miss. There were times when the book would go for a hundred pages on pretty much nothing but fictional Martian politics.

I read enough about real-world politics, and the last thing I want to do for entertainment is to read about the passions stirred up by politics on a fictional world. And I *definitely* don't want to read about the legislative process, the constitutional convention, council meetings, etc. I know it is a vehicle for Robinson's very interesting ideas, but it was too heavy, too long.

I'm glad to be finished with it so I can get on to some shorter, more interesting and more entertaining books. The Mars series is one of those books that is pretty neat to have read, but it wasn't a lot of fun to read. I appreciate the literary merits and the power of some parts of this story, but damn, I need some easy mind candy reading now. Time for more poker books.

Posted by Observer at March 7, 2004 07:10 AM
Comments

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I know I read the first two, I'm actually not sure if I read the last one.... Although looking over my shoulder, I see Green and Blue Mars on my shelf...

Wonder when Red ended up? Eh, whatareyagonnado?

Posted by: Humbaba on March 7, 2004 10:36 AM

I quite enjoyed the series, though I read it long enough ago that I don't really quite remember what it was that I found so riveting. I do remember think that some of the character drama bits were a little soap-opera-y and didn't add much.

Posted by: Dandelion on March 7, 2004 02:57 PM