Visions of Paradise

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Green Mars

I’ve been rereading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series, starting with Red Mars (which I reviewed on 9/25/10), and now the second title Green Mars. I selected both books as my book-of-the-year in 1992/1993 respectively, so that brings high expectations when I reread them, as well as several risks. How many books maintain their excitement the second time around? That fear has kept me from rereading several favorite books from the 1960s, when I was much younger and perhaps had different expectations and wonder levels than I do now. But the Mars series is less than 20 years old, so I might have similar expectations now as I had then.

In my review of Red Mars last September, I stated I see no reason to change that high opinion of the book upon this latest reading of it, which is as good an evaluation of Green Mars as well. The book shows Robinson doing what he is best at:

• detailed worldbuilding, including much attention spent on both the physical terraforming of Mars, as well as the diverse societies being developed on it;

• a finely-detailed political plot as the various groups of immigrants struggle to impose their different values on the planet (from the extreme reds who want to maintain Mars’ distinctive landscape to those who hope to transform the planet into a clone of Earth) while struggling against the giant transnational corporations from Earth who each have their own weapons and military forces, as well as the technology to enforce their own desires onto the planet against the opposition of the people already living there;

• details of a proposed revolution whose plans are hindered both by memories of the 2061 fiasco in Red Mars as well as the different aims and inflexibility of many diverse groups;

• well-developed characterization, especially four main characters: Art who arrives from Earth hoping to unite the diverse groups of the underground; Nirgal who becomes his closest friend and co-advisor; Sax who is one of the First Hundred and part of the underground, but who is living in disguise among the scientists working on the terraforming; Maya who is another of the First Hundred who has so much emotional baggage from her early years on Mars.

Green Mars is slow-paced, but moves inexorably forward as does the terraforming and political situation on Mars. Not being particularly science-oriented, I preferred the political maneuvering more than the physical terraforming itself. One of my favorite portions of the novel was the thirty-day gathering of representatives of the various underground groups to see if they can find common cause to unite them against the transnationals who have taken over much of the planet. Another very strong scene was the novel’s climax which, without giving too much away, reminded me of the most powerful scene in H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

For a middle novel in a trilogy, Green Mars was a very absorbing book that I recommend highly. And next on to Blue Mars, the concluding novel in the series.


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