Customer Reviews: Green Mars (Mars Trilogy)
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on April 14, 2002
Robinson's second book of MARS isn't bad. It has some of the characters from the first book, has the great in-depth detail as the first and has some innovative ideas on some of the problems facing Mars living. An interesting book, just took a long time in the telling. I found in this book, the focus changed from the characters to the science. Red had some the best character detailing I've ever read, just wow. This one seems less focused on that, more interested in the working of the biology, terraforming and political aspects. As with other books that come up with great economic and social ideals, it spends a lot of time explaining the ideas which really slows down the reading. One part of the book has a great meeting of all the factions and talks about the basic ground work for a Mars government, and gets into some of the finer aspects of things but from a reading point of view, way to much detail, unless this is what you were looking for. One thing I will say for Robinson, he has a great way of scientific description. He describes algae in process and function as others would descibe flowers in color and smell. Not bad at all. But again, a long book, and requires a lot of focus to pull all the way through.
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on March 19, 2002
Kim Stanley Robinson's epic Mars trilogy proceeds with new characters and familiar ones. Robinson is now comfortable in his role as planetary surveyor and scribe; his scientific capacity and artistic bravery are equal to his first volume, Red Mars. New readers are introduced to those remaining from the original 100 settlers to Mars, and are given the opportunity to explore the red planet from pole to pole. Those familiar with the exploits of Maya, Sax, Ann, Nadia, and Coyote will be delighted to see the evolving planet through their friends' eyes for a few thousand more miles of adventure and another generation of time.
Mars has experienced its first revolution and its people are now recovering and reorganizing. Several political factions exist: the Reds, those committed to the maintenance of Mars in its primal state, even if that means the expulsion of humans (the Reds were responsible for one wave of the revolution); then there are the Greens, those dedicated to terraformation and viriditas, life's natural pattern of growth and complexity... this group was driven south and underground, and here we find most of the original 100 settlers; next are the Transnationals, the Terran corporations that have spread to Mars (who unleashed a majority of the destruction during the revolution); finally, there are waves of Emigrants who simply have no room left on Earth, or wish to start a new life and family on Mars. Robinson's grasp of the political climate is impressive, as he juggles so many realistic and human motivations. With patience, you will discover the leaders and beliefs of all major groups (a welcome shift from sci-fi's traditional cardboard political cutouts).
But it's still a small world, the population split into only a handful of communities, and the potential as great as ever. "Every human was a great power, every human on Mars an alchemist."
Green Mars is essentially a collection of self-contained short stories, in the mode of Isaac Asimov's original Foundation series; Green Mars weaves fine threads through seven characters and 40 earth-years. In addition, each section is prefaced with a few pages written by other characters, major and minor... these introductories' relation to their following story isn't always clear, but it's often a nice, short respite from the just concluded 50-100 page tale.
First, we travel to the south pole, into caves dug in the frozen ice-mass. Here, we find the Greens continuing both the education of their children and their social engineering; most of the children are test-tube creations, combinations of the strongest members of the community. "Hiroko, who seemed an alien consciousness, with entirely different meanings for all the words in the language" is the group's silent godmother and planner... their future lies in her enigmatic hands. All south-pole Greens travel about in camouflaged vehicles, but not for much longer... their preparations for re-assumption of Mars leadership proceed.
The second story shoots us across 50 million miles, back to Earth. Art Randolph is a technical manager for the transnational corporation, Praxis. He has been summoned to a private seminar on a lush ocean island by Praxis' owner, William Fort. At this seminar, he and a dozen other employees study new and classical theories of economics, and consider how Mars now fits into the picture.
Art must learn quickly, for his next assignment is a space shuttle to the glowing red neighbor in the night sky. His first task will be to become a member of the Greens' underground community.
Robinson explores so many diverse topics over the course of this book that you ponder whether multiple authors took part in its construction. But Robinson's method is consistent throughout: most characters are rational scientists or engineers, who often sound identical but are differentiated by their personal beliefs.
For instance, stories three and four explore the exploits of Ann Clayborne and Sax Russell, respectively. Ann is the first Red, the founder of the movement... in her eyes, no further terraformation or settlement can be permitted, no matter the scientific gain. Sax, in contrast, is the joyous (and possibly mad) scientist, who thrills to new discovery, even if it leads to mass change on Mars. Yet, as scientists, who should have so much in common, Sax can't understand Ann's total hostility towards him.
"Scientists who used different paradigms existed in literally different worlds, epistemology being such an integral component of reality. Scientists debating the relative merits of competing paradigms simply talked right through each other, using the same words to discuss different realities. It had been a frustration to both of them, and when Ann had cried out that he had never seen Mars, a statement that was obviously false on some levels, she had perhaps meant only to say that he hadn't seen her Mars, the Mars created by her paradigm."
Sax eventually leaves Ann behind and proceeds to explore the evolving Ares. Some readers will lap up Robinson's rich detail and etch the new map of Mars on their memory, others will simply page through quickly to the next story. For there are many stories and events remaining. Most significantly, scientists on Earth discover a longevity treatment that more than doubles an average human's life span. Robinson manages the complexity with a measured and humane hand, devising many interesting side-stories. Later on, the larger underground communities band together to hammer out a rough draft of Mars' first constitution, even as a second revolution is approaching. All philosophical differences must be resolved here.
The highlights of this book are the stories starring Sax Russell (most likely Robinson's alter-ego) and the almost overwhelming chronicle of Maya Toitovna, who has entered a grave clinical depression... Robinson's grasp of the human condition is profoundly acute. This is what places his Mars Trilogy at the forefront of all science fiction, as one of the most relevant and prescient accounts of humanity's future.
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The first book in this trilogy, *Red Mars*, is a brilliant tale of interplanetary exploration and colonization, rife with human drama and supported by a plot that rings true as a very likely "future history." The sequel, however, is less satisfying. After an enticing first hundred pages in which new characters, developments, and plot possibilities are introduced, the story bogs down and much of the middle portion of the book is devoted to ENDLESS "description" of what Mr. Robinson believes Mars might look like at particular stages of its future "terraformed" mutilation by human beings. I applaud Robinson's desire to make the Martian landscapes real to the reader, but he should know that past a certain point, people become saturated with endless descriptions of physical terrain. After reading page after page of these descriptions, my eyes finally began to glaze over. The final portion of the book is much more satisfying, as the second part of the story, involving political intrigue and various clashes of personalities, comes to an exciting climax. Robinson once again impresses in terms of his knowledge of the sciences and his ability to bring this knowledge to bear in his writing. In fact, one of the key developments in the plot (those who have not read the book, avert your eyes here!)involves the catastropic melting of part of the Antarctic ice sheet, an eventuality that leads to rising sea levels of political upheaval worldwide. This very possibility has recently received significant press coverage. Kudos to Robinson for weaving future disaster scenarios that seem maximally plausible. Overall, however, I think that the book could easily have been a hundred pages shorter without any loss of impact.
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on July 7, 2002
Using Heinlein's classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as a blueprint, Robinson tries to portray a second Martian revolution in this sequel to his brilliant novel, Red Mars. Disappointingly, this volume is almost completely consumed by character and setting, perhaps trying to make up for the shortage of action, which doesn't really take off until the last few dozen pages. Admittedly, the crisply drawn characters and realistically invoked Martian landscapes were perhaps the best parts of the earlier book, but readers may remember that some of the best characters from Red Mars were killed off, and the new characters introduced are remarkably wooden and dull, while their contributions to the plot are so negligible that one suspects they were added merely as padding, and not because they needed to be there. As a result, this novel takes forever to get moving - the first 470 pages could easily be cut to a quarter of that length without any harm to the story whatever. In Red Mars the interior monologues informed the readers of the action taking place as well as providing intimate portraits of the men and women who colonized the planet. In this installment the monologues seem more like vague ruminations that don't move the plot at all (the first sentence of this review tells you more about the plot than the first couple of hundred pages of this tome), nor do they tell us anything terribly interesting about the characters, let alone make us like them. Robinson clearly had enough material here for a very short novel, and filled it out with the same techniques that worked so well for him in Red Mars, but by keeping the plot effectively a secret from his readers, he leaves us with nothing to do but admire the scenery and listen to some fairly unpleasant (even fanatical) people. While not exactly a bad book, it's a serious letdown from the majesty of Red Mars.
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on November 24, 2001
After reading Red Mars, I was used to Robinson's brilliantly descriptive, but long-winded and repetitive style. So "Green Mars" was no surprise.
Robinson uses a lot of this book to further develop themes he began in "Red Mars." The First Hundred is older, their differences sharper, and yet their basic agreement that Earth should not control Mars' destiny more solid than ever.
This book ranges far and wide, following various characters around the Martian surface, exploring the sanctuaries of the Underground in the south, going back to Earth to pick up an interesting and pivotal character in Art (and another in William Fort, the somewhat enigmatic head of Praxis Corporation), building events up to the second Martian Revolution, and all the while showing the gradual development of Mars' ecosphere.
I found the contrast between dialogue and description, on the one hand, and action on the other, to be effective, with some reservations. As with the first book, Robinson's work cries out for a ruthless, intelligent editor. He writes in an effective, literary style, somewhat unusual in Sci-Fi, but he seems unable to restrain his talent for description, often going on and on for page after page in describing a character's thoughts, or a trip they're taking, or a scientific description of the "areoforming" of the planet. Most of these could be cut drastically, with very little negative impact, IMO. The three volumes could easily have been two, or even one long volume.
That said, I enjoyed Robinson's take on society, politics, and economics, and the extreme realism of his writing. He writes as if he were there, and makes us feel as if we were. This, alone, is a remarkable accomplishment. Although the books are flawed, I recommend them - just don't assume they'll be easy, short reads. These are thoughtful books, not page-turners.
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on November 20, 2000
Warning: Green Mars doesn't stand alone; read Red Mars first.
Fans of Babylon 5 and social science fiction should give Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy a try. Like Babylon 5, this science fiction epic will please people who enjoy speculating about political problems and seeing broad social conflicts played out with a varied cast of complex characters.
The conflicts that drove Red Mars -- between those bent on terraforming Mars and those committed to keeping it pristine; between Martian settlers and those engaged in mining Mars for Earth's profit; and between different visions for the future of Mars society -- continue in Green Mars, but new complexities intervene. Children brought up on Mars, many of them in experimental communities organized around utopian ideals, don't share the views of the first settlers. And the first settlers, too, have changed, sobered by the failure of their first war of independence. Will the ever more fragmented people of Mars be able to agree on anything -- much less unite to win independence?
I found Green Mars a satisfying, intelligent book which even nullifies my trifling criticisms of Red Mars: plot threads which seemed to have been dropped in Red Mars resurface here, not forgotten after all, and Robinson's seeming prejudice against Christians in Red Mars seems to be deliberately corrected in Green Mars. However, it's not for everyone: kids who can read Asimov and Heinlein easily may find Robinson's vocabulary too difficult. Adults wanting a very light read may find it heavy going, as well: this thoughtful book demands readers' full attention. R-rated sex scenes may bother some fastidious readers. And, as with all political stories, appreciation of Green Mars may depend on your politics. Here, again, Babylon 5 provides a good rule of thumb: I would guess that anyone who wasn't put off by the show's political content shouldn't be afraid of this book, either. Give it a try!
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on September 5, 1999
I enjoyed many aspects of this book... KSR's technical background and scientific descriptions of bringing life to Mars works to prove the scientific possiblility of the colonization of Mars by humans. Along with the characters, most of which are scientists, the reader gets a thought provoking image of the real dangers and discoveries found living day to day on Mars. Though I found myself researching scientific terms to try to understand what KSR was telling me, I felt as if I went though a good explanation of Mars and the possibilites there... I liked Red and Green Mars... Blue is next... and I would only hope for Mars where things will be better for the characters... KSR describes the new pioneers of Mars and some very interesting technologies... Quite a fun book and I learned alot about terraforming.. Buy this book and enjoy learning a little about terraforming Mars and meet some human pioneer characters...
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on August 31, 1999
Ok, the first book, Red Mars, was a slog but at least it was new, very well written with lots of mind-numbing detail. Repeat that for another 624 pages and it starts to get very... heavy... going... In fact, this has become the definitive "I'll just read this other novel and then I'll get back to it" novel - and its not a 3 book burner, its getting way up there in the double digits now. Toooo ssssllllloooowwwww and heeeaaavvvvvvyyyyyy to progress with no enjoyability factor
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on March 25, 2013
After finishing Red Mars (which was not short), I waited all of fifteen minutes before downloading the sequel. Geen Mars elaborates and continues the political and economic plot lines set up in Red Mars, and I found it thorooughly engaging.

Robinson clearly has some political and economic biases. Strongly pro-democratic, he is impatient with those who seek to establish dictatorial methods for short term expedience, well-recognizing that there's always an emergency that can rationalize the lust for power. He is also extremly skeptical of the benefits of untammelled capitalism with its greed, selfishness, dictatorial and dehumaninizing methods and utter disregard of community interests at large. Instead, he pushes a different (left of center) model of cooperative ownership by employees, which may or may not function in the real world. (There is enough experience now to say that one can not generalize.) The arguments, however--which occupy numerous pages--are lucid, reasonable and compelling, even if the conclusions are not what might occur in the world today.

Like any sequel, it lacks some of the novelty and drama of the first iteration, but it's still just as literate, erudite and compelling as Red Mars. Still, it is not flawless on the copy-editing front. Character names are occasionally misspelled, words missing, some sentences inartfully constructed. These are all errrors than an alert editor would have picked up and corrected without fuss. Hopefully these silly errors will be corrected in later editions.
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on August 11, 2013
There's parts to admire in the second book but nothing to get excited about. Green Mars is blighted by the worst pollution of all, cut and paste, endless repetitions, endless pages of geology, last century Pax Americana and anything else to pad the prose. The narrative only becomes coherent around 300 pages into the book. Yet, every single time the plot takes off the author goes on another walkabout. The characters all go on long journey's to discover themselves or control others. No wonder the characters suffer memory loss. Hugo award winner or not this book is ruined by not having a strict editor.
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