RedMars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, is a quite an achievement. I can definitely understand how it won the Nebula, and it makes my short list for best hard science fiction novels. Simply put, Robinson tells the story of the beginning of the colonization of Mars. He did his homework (usually), and it shows; he manages to weave technical details and background into his narrative without resorting to the Victor Hugo method (long, drawn-out digressions on topics orthogonal to the plot). I liked his solution to the problem of the gaps in our knowledge of Mars: rather than hedging his bets, he usually came down on one side or the other of the scientific debates (i.e., life/no life, water/dry, etc.) He also has a strong command of the other side of the equation: his characters are all impressively drawn, and he has a solid grasp of human relationships and sociology. I particularly enjoyed the entire shift in tone when he transition from Maya's to Nadia's viewpoint upon their arrival at Mars, and his treatment of the good and evil sides of Frank Chalmers.

The only blemishes on the book are, in my opinion, the ending and some of his treatment of the evolution of Earth and the war on Mars. For some reason, I did not find the ending section (told from Ann's and Nadia's viewpoints) nearly as compelling as the rest of the book. At one point (a plot spoiler), I thought Nadia seemed to act out of character, and Ann's section seemed . . . tepid, even though there was plenty of action, emotional and otherwise. I just didn't care as much as I had earlier. It may be a case of sequel syndrome, where the lack of a forced conclusion allows the author to peter out, rather than writing a strong ending. I don't know, but that was the only technical problem I found with the novel. My dispute with Robinson on the subject of Earth is much more open to contention; simply put, I am a skeptic about the imminence of overpopulation, which plays a great role in Robinson's Earth. I also disagree with some of the directions he takes geopolitics, but a geopolitics is hard to predict, so I'll leave it aside. Robinson's portrait of war on Mars is also not what I imagine war on Mars would like; in essence, even in an environment as hostile as Mars, I suspect that fighting a determined resistance movement would be well-nigh impossible. There also are a great number of nitty-gritty tactical details that I don't think he gets right, which I won't go into for sake of brevity.

In the end, RedMars is an outstanding book. I look forward to reading the rest of the series, and I hope it maintains the same quality.


FunWiki | RecentChanges | Preferences
Edit text of this page | View other revisions
Last edited May 29, 2001 22:42 (diff)