Going to Mars Word by Word With Kim Stanley Robinson

Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, author

The next stop in my blog series, Going to Mars Word by Word, is the Nebula Award winning novel Red Mars written by Kim Stanley Robinson, published by Bantam House Science Fiction in 1993. It is the first of a trilogy(Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) about the red planet that explores technological, scientific, political and social changes that might occur in the process of colonizing and terraforming the Mars.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

To say that Red Mars is the story of the colonization of Mars is to oversimplify. It is a multi-character saga about the first fifty or so years of the colonization and transformation of the planet.

We follow several major characters in the first one hundred persons (mostly scientists) sent on the long journey to Mars. Once they land and begin to study and understand Mars, conflicts arise between various characters and their visions of their future on the red planet.

As the overcrowded Earth sends more and more colonists, the struggle intensifies and ultimately ruptures into a violent revolution. The irony is that the damage the revolution does will probably speed the process of terraforming Mars and the Mars they loved will be no more.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Kim Stanley Robinson paints the marvel that is Mars in loving detail. There are multiple viewpoints, travelogues and scientific expeditions from the trenches to the incomprehensibly high mountain tops. He portrays a Mars that is dead, at least on the surface. The aquifers in the story are unlikely to be found on the real planet. All-in-all Mr. Robinson builds an accurate, if fictionalized, Mars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Stanley Robinson (1952- ) is a multiple award winning novelist. Born in Illinois, his family moved to California when he was two. He grew up playing in orange orchards that soon gave way to suburban development.

During college he began writing science fiction. He earned a Ph.D. in literature with a dissertation since published as The Novels of Phillip K. Dick.

Orbit 18 was the first to publish his short stories in 1976. His novels have garnered eleven major science fiction awards (Nebulas, Hugos, the John Campbell Award, World Fantasy Award, and Locus Magazine Awards). Please see a fan generate bibliography here.

Robinson is married to a working environmental chemist, is a stay-at-home dad caring for his two sons, a backpacker who loves the mountains, and has traveled extensively. The Mars trilogy is the result of a lifelong passionate interest in Mars and multiple years of research.

CONCLUSION

Red Mars is an ambitious novel that is recognized as a seminal work of science fiction. And I will not dispute that. It is a book that every serious science fiction reader or writer should read.

I read this book when it was first published and re-read it this past month. For me the characters are neither likeable nor believable and the pace is very slow. However, Mars is portrayed with a loving sense of wonder that I admire and enjoyed.

Resources:

Kim Stanley Robinson.Info

Wikipedia on Kim Stanley Robinson

I love to hear from you.

Have you read Red Mars? What did you think of it?

If you haven’t read this book, what ‘classic’ works of your favorite genre have you read?

6 thoughts on “Going to Mars Word by Word With Kim Stanley Robinson

  1. I haven’t read Red Mars. The premise sounds interesting, especially with that company that’s planning to colonize in the next decade! Probably the most “classic” time travel romance I’ve read is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander – and I didn’t like it, go figure.

    1. Yes, it does make one think about the colonization of Mars. We may get to that point, but not like in Red Mars. KSR assumed a lot of money would be launched toward Mars (massive equipment in multiple rockets).

      Ah, yes, I would think Diana Gabaldon’s series would be a ‘classic’ time travel story. It kind of makes me feel better that you didn’t like that series. 🙂

  2. Lynette,
    I read a friend’s copy of the whole series when it first came out (I believe there was another novel called White Mars published later). I’m going on my memories from then. At the time I read it I was studying to be an engineer, and I remember being frustrated by the politics in the story (although I remember thinking it was sadly realistic). I enjoyed the series, but it never ended up on my bookshelf.

    1. Hi, Sarah. Yes, there is a book called White Mars by Brian Aldiss. It’s his response to the Mars series by Robinson. I agree with both of your points about the politics, unfortunately. So you enjoyed it, but it wasn’t one that resonated with you enough that you had to keep it. Fair enough. 🙂 Thanks! I appreciate your support.

  3. I read the series when it first came out too, and loved it. I agree the pace is slow, but the world building is fabulous and I did enjoy it. All three books in the series are on my sci fi shelf 🙂

    1. Kim, I so appreciate your comment! Yes, the world building is fab. Alas, until I started this Going to Mars series, I didn’t realize that I no longer had the books (most of our book collection stayed with my ex). So now I at least have Red Mars.

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