With today’s post in A to Z Challenge we’re going into space with Kim Stanley Robinson.
I found “Red Mars” (the first book in Mars Trilogy) in a library, a massive book promising a lot of words to read, and since I had a science-fiction phase, I grabbed it without thinking too much. Besides, who wouldn’t like a good story of the first colonists on Mars? I knew I would. And I did, but I got much more than I expected.
“Red Mars” is a start of a grand trilogy that encompasses centuries of Mars colonization, and be warned, the book heavily leans toward the science side of science-fiction. Not that it is difficult to follow for anyone with basic ideas on how the world functions (physics-wise, but also sociologically and economically), but the how-s and why-s of the colonization are more important than a fast-paced action.
The book is also, for a science-fiction of course, very realistic. Most technological solutions are already available to humanity or scientists are getting close to the breakthrough, so the whole colonization feels very plausible. I remember that when I’ve read this book, I had to constantly remind myself we weren’t colonizing Mars yet, so real the story felt.
“Red Mars” and the rest of the trilogy also looks at colonization from all perspectives. It’s not only “how to survive on Mars” adventure, but also a deep insight into all the hardships that would wait for the first colonists and an analysis of many civilizational processes that would accompany such project. Social changes, politics, economy, even foreign affairs when the Martian population grows apart from the mother Earth and its interests.
The story starts with the 100 colonists heading for Mars, and the reader gets to know them quite well. Their personalities, likes and dislikes, friends and enemies. This helps to invest emotions in the book and follow the characters’ struggles… Even though it’s not an action-packed book, I was biting my nails many times. As the time passes, and the colonists grow older, the author introduces the invention of gene manipulation that prolongs people’s lives. This way the characters the reader grew to like (or dislike) still stick around, though some of them disappear from the pages for quite a long time. Some die too, in rather dramatic events, but I won’t spoil anything here.
All in all, “Red Mars” is not a book to be read for pure entertainment. Multiple POVs, variety of serious topics covered in the books, and slow-pace make it quite a demanding, but a very, very rewarding read.
Needless to say, I hunted down my own copies of the trilogy, even though back then they were out of print and reaching crazy prices on the auction sites. But they were worth it.
And what about you? Do you know any other “realistic” books about the colonization of our Solar System? (Or maybe even further?) I know there’s Ben Bova’s series (I think I’ve read two first books available in my library back when I was young), and I obviously read Weir’s “The Martian” (though it’s hardly about colonization of the planet), but I’m sure there’s more out there I overlooked. Any recommendations?