The Red Planet Is Red No Longer, As Mars Has Become A Perfectly Inhabitable World But While Mars Flourishes, Earth Is Threatened By Overpopulation And Ecological Disaster Soon People Look To Mars As A Refuge, Initiating A Possible Interplanetary Conflict, As Well As Political Strife Between The Reds, Who Wish To Preserve The Planet In Its Desert State, And The Green Terraformers The Ultimate Fate Of Earth, As Well As The Possibility Of New Explorations Into The Solar System, Stand In The Balance This review of Blue Mars is in fact a review of the entire trilogy, since it s one continuous story one that altogether weighs in at something around 2,300 pages I ve been living on Mars for the last 3 months and wish that, if it were possible, I could actually live there, at least the Mars portrayed in these books It s certainly not a series for everybody all those lots of pages are filled with lots of science, lots of politics and political theory, and lots of philosophy However, for such a long work, the story line is fairly straightforward 100 super scientists journey to Mars, establish a colony, and while they gradually terraform it, other Terrans settle it, fleeing an over populated and rapidly declining Earth The books describe the struggle of the Martians Robinson s clever inversion those humans living on Mars become Martians to transform Mars into a habitable world, a struggle that takes place in two dimensions the scientific problem of turning barren, cold Mars into a new Earth, and the human problem of creating a workable society freed from the toxic ways of life still found on Earth In this way, Robinson weaves together the old utopian impulses of science fiction with a kind of hard science style of sci fi that I ve not seen in quite a while Utopian fiction Robinson knows his sci fi, and this trilogy in many places reminded me of a massively inflated version of LeGuin s classic The Dispossessed The two worlds of Urras and Anarres are replaced by Mars and Earth, respectively Just as Urras was cold and relatively desolate, compared to the superabundance of life on Anarres, Mars begins as a totally uninhabitable place, while Earth to which the narrative moves twice remains, even in its decadent state, almost inhospitably alive LeGuin s novel famously created the genre of the ambiguous or critical utopia, and the Mars Trilogy follows out this idea In passing from Earth to Mars, the first hundred decide that they are not beholden to their original mission, and that they have the opportunity finally to create a better form of human living, but like LeGuin s anarchist utopia, even a better form of human living is subject to the human frailties of fractured relationships, power, conformity, and xenophobia, so that the reader is treated to multiple revolutions as the colonists struggle to realize a new form of living The first of these revolutions, in Red Mars book 1 is a stunning page turner, the lengthy description of the fall of the elevator cable being one of the best moments in that book Without spoiling too much, the second revolution in Green Mars book 2 is almost as gripping, and philosophically interesting, and sets the stage for the slower and meditative Blue Mars book 3 , in which Robinson takes delight in exploring numerous post revolutionary forms life communal, neo tribal, etc The trilogy leans unapologetically to the left and toward environmentalism, although Robinson shares the old school Marxist faith in technology as a solution to many problems Science Robinson is fairly obsessed with Mars, and any of my friends who decide to read this should use the specially constructed Google Maps for this trilogy thanks, Dennis, Boccippio to follow the narrative there are many long travelogues in the narrative Geology technically, areology , biology, astronomy, psychology, physics, all get long discussions If you re not a scientist, or don t find science interesting, you might zone out, but Robinson manages two remarkable feats first, he folds the science into the narrative well, so that it becomes a part of the actual story, and he frequently uses the science as a metaphor for what s happening politically or personally with the characters Second, he s about the best popular science writer around he explains even the most technical scientific ideas with clarity and verve Having just finished the book, I think know the geography areology of Mars better than that of Earth Philosophy Robinson wrote a doctoral thesis on Philip K Dick Although his style reflects little of that great writer, he certainly includes the philosophy in a way that echoes Dick As a philosopher, I typically hate writers who explicitly discuss philosophical ideas in books It takes something special to pull it off Dick certainly had it, and Robinson has it For one thing, he seems to actually understand the philosophical issues he raises, for another, just as with the science, the philosophy reflects events occurring in the novel and with the characters Whole sections of the book are actually examinations of particular philosophical ideas folded into narrative One is devoted to Kuhn s notion of the paradigm, a late chapter on the character Zo is lifted straight out of Nietzsche s Beyond Good and Evil, even Deleuze gets a chapter I don t know that it would be possible to identify each section with a philosophical idea, but it would be worth trying.So, lots of ideas, obviously But fundamentally, it s stories and characters that sell narratives, and Robinson manages to provide those as well A convenient plot device, the gerontology treatments, greatly extends the lives of the characters, so that we are able to follow the first hundred through the entire 150 year span of the trilogy In fact, many of these characters are killed off, lending a genuine sense of danger to the narrative and also providing a kind of woven structure to the narrative that s quite lovely As some characters die, their story is taken by other members of the first hundred, or by new, native born Martians If nothing else, the long story of Saxifrage Russell not a subtle symbol, that name, as he is the main advocate of terraforming and the hardcore Red Ann provides a remarkable continuity and also a terrific character development arc I must say I was completely in love with Sax by the time the story was over crazy, brilliant, compassionate, a sort of good mad scientist, he has become one of the my favorite characters in all of sci fi.Panoramic, epic, and yet intimate, filled with science and ideas and politics, it s really a remarkable read I ll agree with the criticisms that Blue Mars is a bit slow, and that the travelogues can be a bit overlong although having a good map makes it much easier , but if you want to really go to Mars, this is how you get there. The first two novels in the Mars trilogy were pretty much a tight mix of colonization, politics, SO MUCH GREAT SCIENCE, and fairly interesting characterizations pretty much designed to carry the sprawling expanse of what MARS is than anything else.Let s put it this way, and careful, because here comes a spoiler, butMars is the main character The third novel has relatively little action in it, but that s okay There s a new constitution being hammered out for the fascinating experimental political parts, new customs as both time and the planet changes radically with the terraforming, and the influence Mars has on a massively overpopulated Earth being driven crazy by the new life prolonging treatments Designed and exported from Mars I squealed like a little fanboy with the endless wordcount of the science, from the physics of brain chemistry at the quantum level to the terraforming of Mercury and Venus and some of the bigger moons out by the gassy ones What COULD be considered a negative to the novel was actually its biggest strength Let me explain This is about old people Senescence You could take it as a metaphor if you like, Old Blue Earth vs New Mars, memories versus living in the present, or even White versus Red thinking It s a Thing It s also about synthesis As in alchemy Mars is both its pristine red past and its new living, ocean filled, green, boat laden glory So are we We re our memories, our hopes for the future, be it science, children, or ourselves, AND we are our present Live your life, quick, the promise of immortality is an illusion I will never call this novel a great one in terms of plot or characters, though I really grew to love Sax and Ann, our embodiments of White and Red thinking, by the end Everyone else, nascent gods supplanting their titan parents, were amusing and fascinating, but in the end, unnecessary EXCEPT for the character of world building, science, the collective unconscious, the zeitgeist, the evolving thought, and the evolving planet.It s a sprawling jazz filled explosion of life and erosion of time, water, and memory.At least, that s how I see it If this novel had been presented today as a Hugo winner, I probably would have declined to nominate it, but for the time this won in 97, as well as the other two Mars novels, it was a revelation.Most other SF is weaksauce compared to the science and exploration of science in these novels Truth is truth All this glorious science doesn t always make for a good STORY, but the story was good enough to showcase a polymath brilliance spanning ethics, psychology, politics, terraforming, biology, quantum physics, and even the meaning of life.Come on CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. SPOILERS POSSIBLE BELOW, however, if you have come this far in Robinson s Mars Trilogy, there is little here that is really all that surprising So, I suppose I can be a bit open and explicit about my likes and dislikes of the Mars Trilogy now that I finished Blue Mars Likes Science Geekout For my inner geek, there was certainly a lot to enjoy overall The concept of terraforming and in this last book, colonizing the rest of the accessible solar system , fusion technology for space travel although the inner workings of this were frustratingly lacking compared to the long passages about lichen, algae, and the regolith , the space elevator with the cool mind bending y joint mentioned in Blue Mars are just a few examples of cool tech Robinson wrote these books in the 90s before Apple Watch predicted here with increased visualization and AI capabilities , Facebook there is a retro feel to his private band communication channels, but overall, the connectedness of the Martians is interesting , Google the wrist AIs I mentioned above seem to be super amazingly good at searching , iPads there are lots of tablets on Mars but for the life of me I can t remember the name he gave them and since I returned the books to the library already so it was cool to see some of his predictions come true in our lifetime Philosophy There is quite a lot of philosophy in the Mars trilogy starting with the Russell Clayborne Green Red debates on terraforming vs leaving Mars as is I found this to be original and fascinating as these are questions which I think would definitely arise I also liked the societal problems that he envisions and the unique Martian solutions to, say, the economy the positive eco economics of Vlad and his girlfriends in particular in Red Mars in particular Immortality I did not suspect that the Martians, Vlad in particular, would develop a cure for death well, almost and found the complications of this memory loss in particular to be fascinating and an interesting way to keep the story arcs alive over the nearly 200 year period during which the novels occur.DislikesShunted character arcs I have been wanting to say for a while how pissed I was at the premature deaths of John, Frank, and especially Arkady in Red and Green Mars I found Frank to be relatively uninteresting and the Frank John Maya love triangle contrived and annoying to be honest , but I liked John and really loved Arkady, so when they were precipitously killed off, I felt a bit ripped off to be honest I also felt that it was unfortunate that we didn t get a perspective chapter or two from the Vlad side of the First Hundred because I would have liked to look inside his brain Non sequitors I found that there were a few leaps the book made that were a bit artificial or that perhaps I entirely missed during this first read through the series One example is Spencer, who we barely know, but who suddenly was this mentioned in Red Mars because I could not find the reference appears as a spy for 20 years at the transnat prison where Sax gets imprisoned in Green Mars Really That sounded rather convenient, but I ll retract if there was a mention of this posting back in Red Mars Similarly, the character of Charlotte suddenly appears in Blue Mars and I was confused as to whether she was a issei or a nonsei because I don t recall her from Red Mars or Green Mars at all Then there was the journalist from Red Mars that seemed to have disappeared or was she killed during 61 I found this quite confusing Also, after using lots of tablets in Green Mars, they disappear completely in Blue Mars There were lots of little things like this that bugged me, but I don t know if they were inconsistencies which perhaps given the titanic amount of ground that Robinson covers is to be expected or due to not reading close enough Undefined terms and missing maps I enjoyed all the discussions on geology and biology, but I would have liked a glossary to define some of the esoteric terms that are used in the long descriptions of areology itself an admittedly clever term Red Mars seemed to be missing some maps so that I could fully appreciate the distances that were traveled by the characters When there were maps in Green Mars and Blue Mars, they did not always note the craters or geologic features which were described in the text which meant that either they weren t detailed enough or that they were almost nearly superfluous Overall impressions I would probably give the overall trilogy a 4 star rating for its originality and research I think Blue Mars was the weakest volume as there was little action and I got a bit of Cheers syndrome watching Sax and Ann circle each other for so long without coming together until the end At least Kim spared me the painful final season of Cheers when Sam and Diane were together Well worth reading and pondering and also researching as to the viability of some of these ideas 20 years later KSR said in an interview in 2016, that the simultaneous discovery of bacteria on Mars and the almost complete absence of nitrogen detected during the most recent Mars probes would prove nearly insurmountable challenges to a Mars terraforming project in real life I agreed with his conclusion that before terraforming another planet, perhaps we should be better custodians of our own Because at its heart, the novel really is about the environment and its impact on the characters The Red Green divide is both psychological and societal and very real in our world now This, for me, was the most enduring idea from the Mars Trilogy. The science is great I don t agree with all of it, but who am I to say I would equate his use of science as a literary device to Asimov, except Robinson uses science that is reasonable within humanities grasp The science is the real strength of this book and series It is outstanding.His moving from character to character throughout all three books worked well No points lost there.The real problem with this series and especially this book was that, even though parts of it were fascinating, parts of it were so incredibly dull that a Pelican History of Greece was exciting in comparison These parts were so bad that I kept it in my car so I could suffer through a little at a time while waiting in the McDonalds drive through This is why this book took months rather than days to read.If I wasn t anticipating a memorable endind, I would have given up despite having read the first two books with moderate suffering Instead, when I reached the last page I had two questions.First Was that the end of the book or did they forget to put the last chapter in my copy Second I thought I knew what the book and series was about, but was it about anything.My impression Robinson only wrote this story If it was a story There were lots of events but no viable plot as a means to present some good theoretical science. Christmas 2010 I realised that I had got stuck in a rut I was re reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works Something had to be done.On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci Fi award That s 35 books, 6 of which I d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life so farBlue Marswon the Locus Sci Fi award in 1997, holding off stiff competition from Simmons Endymion and two fine Bujold novelsMemoryandCetaganda .I was readingBlue Marswhile my wife was in labour As she dozed under the effects of an epidural, I was sprawled across some piled up beanbags, working my way through this final instalment of Robinson s terraforming epic I finished it up while waiting for my wife and newborn son to be released and as such it will forever remain etched on my heart.Having read the entire Mars Trilogy back to back, I foundBlue Marsto be a maddening and melancholy yet powerfully memorable book.The blurb on the back is misleading It sets the scene forBlue Marsto be a showdown between Mars and Earth That storyline does slowly grow in stature throughout the book, but it never really dominates proceedings and climaxes with a whimper it s probably the weakest strand of the story.The whole book is a melancholy affair If Red Mars represented dreams crashing down, and Green Mars portrayed a new world being built up, thenBlue Marsis about achieving a sustainable plateau The characters are old, their memories are going, their goals have mostly been achieved and they don t know what to do with themselves It s all a bit too reflective and listless to be truly gripping.In the same way that the introduction of Nirgal in Green Mars seemed to give the series a fresh dimension, I felt the arrival of the hedonistic young Zo Boone inBlue Marscould really add something sparkling and fun As such, I was extremely disappointed that view spoiler she was killed off so quickly hide spoiler Kim Stanley Robinson s Mars Trilogy is a glorious beast It is one of the most extraordinary science fiction epics I have ever read Vast and complex and meticulously researched, character driven but interplanetary in scope, gritty, political, beautiful, inventive, and always surprising It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me shiver in awe.So why only three stars for Blue Mars, the final installment Well Blue Mars is set after the colonization struggles of Red Mars and the political upheavals of Green Mars The blurb on the back promised even higher stakes this time When a global flood wreaks havoc on the overpopulated Earth, immigration policy becomes a critical and divisive issue as the Martians draft their first global constitution With desperate Terrans spoiling for interplanetary war, the ongoing dispute between the Red conservationist and Green pro terraforming factions on Mars threatens to erupt into yet another civil war And then there is the rising popularity of the Mars First party, comprised of native born Martians who want to cut ties from Earth completely The first few sections of this book certainly seemed to be setting up for some magnificently messy conflicts.But then it all just kind of fizzles Instead, we spend a tiresome majority of this book with various characters who have decided to check out from life and wander the Martian wilderness About a third of the novel is just descriptions of various regions of the planet and what they look like now that the terraforming has really taken hold It s not that I dislike this kind of thing Robinson s prose is the pleasant kind of didactic and it s not that this wasn t a prominent feature of the first two books because ohhhh yes, it was It s just that the first two books also had plenty of fast paced, shocking, heartbreaking sections too Blue Mars just slowed to a crawl and never picked up any steam.Much of Blue Mars is a meditation on mortality, or the lack thereof In Red Mars, the scientists develop a longevity treatment that pauses aging As a result, we are able to follow the same core group of characters throughout all three books, despite that the events span roughly 300 years At first, I was really happy with this development it sucks to get emotionally invested in characters and then have to watch them all succumb to the ravages of time But by about halfway through Blue Mars I was begging them all to just die already Their same old interpersonal dramas, their increasingly antiquated beliefs, their unending complaints as their bodies and minds reach the limits of their useful life It was just a parade of misery I wanted to read about the younger generations of Martians, their new ways of living, their visions for the future, their energy.Or failing that, uh, whatever happened to that population crisis on EarthAnd everything else the first quarter of the book seemed to be setting up It s not that those issues aren t dealt with later on, but they never take center stage and they never really turn into anything worth caring about I miss Red Mars and the way it had all those, you know, events.So Blue Mars was a little disappointing, a meandering, largely plot free doorstopper of a book But I still love KSR, and I still wholeheartedly recommend the Mars trilogy it s so big and so ambitious and so thorough and so fascinating It s a world I think about often, a messy utopia filled with characters that will always have a special place in my heart even if they did overstay their welcome a bit by book 3 Ever since finishing it, I ve had the urge to pick up Red Mars and embark on this 2000 page journey all over again But I ll wait I ll let it settle a bit I ll go explore some other worlds for awhile. Here we are A genre, if not a literary tour de force Blue Mars concludes nearly 2000 pages of Robinson s middle 1990s future history of the settling and development of Mars While Robinson strays close to the border of ridiculous social commentary a la Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, most readers will identify his monumental achievement chronicling the physics, chemistry, biology and, yes, even the psychology and politics of his brave new world.That said, Robinson cut many corners and stacked the deck in favor of his settlers In fact, often their biggest challenge was to keep from killing one another but isn t that true to life Paradoxically, his neo Marxist society existed as a leisure class unencumbered by worries of money or costs all made possible by robots, AI and genetics.The fun was somewhat diminished by the long sermons, but Robinson even managed to laugh at himself occasionally.Quibbles All too easy and too fast Instant trains instant fusion rockets, almost instant breathable air Underwater salt columns which hadn t dissolved after a century Scuba down two kilometers Round world running events Polar bears Talk your way out of major interplanetary confrontations He creates a volcano in Green Mars, then doesn t mention it again in that book or in Blue Mars.Much like Thomas More s Utopia, but still a fun read. This book is the hardest to rate of all three in the trilogy Why Because it s also the best in the trilogy Let s start at the beginning The final volume picks up shortly after the end of the second There is another revolution, this one slightly successful thanks to Earth being flooded with problems see what I did there P However, violent outbursts such as the Reds firing missiles at the new elevator are thwarted A delicate balance is established that, through the course of the book, allows an equally delicate independent government to be erected on Mars and causing the third and final revolution to be rather peaceful This leads to the contemplation of some interesting and some rather ridiculous concepts regarding politics, government and judicial systems.Moreover, the terraforming efforts on Mars have progressed and still are progressing and , leading to liquid water on the formerly red planet it s warm enough now Plants grow, animals get introduced and thrive somewhat , there is farming and We get to see nature unfold and with it new technological advances and opportunities for a peace with Earth as Mars feeds large chunks of the population This success also has another effect asteroids and other planets get terraformed as well, which means that humanity has opportunity to spread out relaxing the political military tensions between Earth and Mars and we get to use everything in our solar system including metals from other planets.This leads me to the technology angle the author always made sure to present development on the small er scale, such as the bird suits so people on Mars could actually fly, as well as the large scale, such as the mining efforts on Mercury or the new ship drives that make interstellar travel relatively fast and easy Really cool how one thing led to the next.And medicine A very important topic since health care is an export from Mars and doesn t just consist of the longevity treatment but much up to and including genetic alterations in humans if they want to be catty for example All of the above had an incredible scale, making this book dense but also enormously interesting to read and I have no problem believing that no other author has ever done that or only very few others have However, the negative followed suit almost immediately Again in the form of the people the author chose to populate his worlds with I don t know if the author is this whacky himself, if he thought whacky would be what people turned out to be if they lived for over 200 years with such accomplishments or if he s just bad at characterisations but boy, was I annoyed once again Many of the original 100 are dead and are dying in here some of nothing than old age but the remaining ones as well as some of their children Jacky and grand children Zoe are at least as enragingly stupid bitchy annoying and it marred my enjoyment From further sexual encounters view spoiler right at the end, there is even a sexual game between 200 year old Maia and her 5 year old son hide spoiler There s something of after the lord mayor s parade about this volume After the revolution of the last volume, I was hoping for something of civil war in this For the bulk of the narrative though it s just a lot of characters figuring out what Mars means to them which although well written, lacks a certain drama For instance, there s a long section about blight attacking the potato crop of one of the major characters Now, if you were actually farming on Mars, that s no doubt a problem which would be a great worry, but it doesn t really shake the reader by the lapels demanding attention.After all the immersion in Mars and all things Martian in the previous books, there s of a solar system wide travelogue to this volume, with visits to Mercury, Earth allowing the author to try and fail to capture a cockney accent Okay he doesn t quite channel Dick Van Dyke, but it would never pass muster down Catford and the moons of Jupiter and Uranus Since these books have hitherto concentrated, with vast detail, on life on Mars, these soujorns feel like a loss of focus As if Stanley Robinson suddenly realised he didn t actually have enough Mars material for three volumes That feeling is only intensified by the sudden appearance of inter generational sex on the Martian surface It s not that that particular hot and heavy scene demands a nomination for The Bad Sex Prize , but the sudden appearance of a lusty young maiden and her unlimited desires a thousand or so pages in or whatever it is, I read it on a Kindle does feel like an author scrabbling around for something to write about Towards the end, the background rumblings of a war do finally start to crack the surface, but annoyingly Stanley Robinson chooses not to focus his attention there Instead he tries to deal with what I thought was a big flaw in this otherwise, detailed, seemingly realistic, hard science fiction trilogy the fact that its characters have had aging treatments and are living for hundreds of years There s an attempt to examine what this would mean both physically and mentally how much memory could such an old brain hold, after all but clearly, and frustratingly, he doesn t take this examination anywhere near as far as he could The problems that are raised are sorted out neatly with scientific mumbo jumbo, a wave of a magic wand and a deus ex machine All of which leads to a happy ending which is heavily signalled in this volume, but surprised me having read the two previous books.So having ploughed through all three long volumes, I find myself disappointed The first two I enjoyed, but the third feels flat, unfocused and inconsequential It s like I ve travelled a great distance for nothing much in particular, but then maybe travelling a great distance for nothing much in particular is exactly what the real Mars would be like.