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Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 737 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Mars Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Red Mars opens with a tragic murder, an event that becomes the focal point for the surviving characters and the turning point in a long intrigue that pits idealistic Mars colonists against a desperately overpopulated Earth, radical political groups of all stripes against each other, and the interests of transnational corporations against the dreams of the pioneers.

This is a vast book: a chronicle of the exploration of Mars with some of the most engaging, vivid, and human characters in recent science fiction. Robinson fantasizes brilliantly about the science of terraforming a hostile world, analyzes the socio-economic forces that propel and attempt to control real interplanetary colonization, and imagines the diverse reactions that humanity would have to the dead, red planet.

Red Mars is so magnificent a story, you will want to move on to Blue Mars and Green Mars. But this first, most beautiful book is definitely the best of the three. Readers new to Robinson may want to follow up with some other books that take place in the colonized solar system of the future: either his earlier (less polished but more carefree) The Memory of Whiteness and Icehenge, or 1998's Antarctica. --L. Blunt Jackson

From Publishers Weekly

The first installment in Robinson's ( Blind Geometer ) new trilogy is an action-packed and thoughtful tale of the exploration and settlement of Mars--riven by both personal and ideological conflicts--in the early 21st century. The official leaders of the "first hundred" (initial party of settlers) are American Frank Chalmers and Russian Maya Katarina Toitova, but subgroups break out under the informal guidance of popular favorites like the ebullient Arkady Nikoleyevich Bogdanov, who sets up a base on one of Mars's moons, and the enigmatic Hiroko, who establishes the planet's farm. As the group struggles to secure a foothold on the frigid, barren landscape, friction develops both on Mars and on Earth between those who advocate terraforming, or immediately altering Mars's natural environment to make it more habitable, and those who favor more study of the planet before changes are introduced. The success of the pioneers' venture brings additional settlers to Mars. All too soon, the first hundred find themselves outnumbered by newcomers and caught up in political problems as complex as any found on Earth.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Mars Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; Reprint edition (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553560735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553560732
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (737 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoyed this trilogy, but readers considering it should probably at least consider the following up front:
* You're gonna be subjected to miles of dialog-free prose, more than I've ever seen in any book that proports to be a novel. If you're into the science, and into visualizing what you read, you'll have no problem. But if you're used to Crichton, forget it. The pace will kill you.
* If you don't already know geology, keep a dictionary handy. He uses 150 geological terms I'd never heard of.
* The book has two main topics: Mars and Politics. Don't expect a thriller.
* There are gaps in the science that you'll have to overlook. He's weak on the biological, but strong on the astrophysical.
* The characters are pretty archetypal, so you'll probably relate to at least one of them. But also, some are, well, pretty darn annoying. But they add to the story anyway if you can stand them.
So given that, if you're not scared off, read it. Read all three. You'll like them, and in the end you'll feel like you know a lot about Mars. It's an epic, and a great one despite its occasional shortcomings.
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Nominally a future-history of Martian colonization, Red Mars covers the initial 100 Martian colonists, the influx of workers as corporations attempt to exploit the planet's resources, and the consequences as conditions worsen. The book is divided into eight parts, each telling the story from the point of view of one of six characters. Each character is interesting and three dimensional. The first, Frank Chalmers, is a stunning example - a machiavellian sociopath who arranges the murder of his best friend. The book suggests early on that the characters are dysfunctional, but most are not, and Robinson describes each personality in a way that's easy to relate to. Most readers will see some of themselves in every character, and will be moved when many disappear from the story as events unfurl.
Robinson's prose is easy to read and descriptive. He lovingly describes the Martian landscape, and the events that change the planet. He explains the processes and technologies being used to make the planet more habitable. Mars and its future is viewed through different cultures and ideologies. And Robinson describes political and social systems evolving, growing, and collapsing - the only challenges the colonists seem unable to solve are those that cannot be fixed technologically. The ending is dramatic and, cheesy last line notwithstanding, overwhelming.
A word about the politics: Several reviewers have trouble understanding the concept of sympathetic characters not representing the author. Nobody argues that, through Chalmers, Robinson is advocating murder, so why assume that characters portrayed as idealistic hot-heads advocating an enlightened Utopia (not communism) are attempts to convert readers to Marxism?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am just aghast at the number of non-five-star ratings this book has received. The answer probably likes in the sophistication of the particular reviewers who are underrating this masterpiece. I don't want to make this sound arrogant or patronizing, but the great thing about the Internet (and Amazon reviewing) is that anyone can review, while the awful thing about the Internet is that anyone can review. I'm not sure what else one could want out of a Sci-fi novel than what you find here. My guess is that those who dislike it tend to prefer space opera or pure adventure books. But if you have any capacity to read good literature this novel will almost undoubtedly knock your socks off.

RED MARS has been almost universally praised by Sci-fi writers and academics as one of the finest hard science Sci-fi novels in recent decades. Partly as a result of the influence of Philip K. Dick (my favorite Sci-fi writer, but someone who was almost completely uninterested in the "science" in Sci-fi but instead focused on metaphysical dilemmas), STAR TREK, and STAR WARS, Sci-fi has been less and less focused on science in the past few decades and instead has been more concerned with exploring questions like "what is real?" or adventure stories. Time was when the most denigrated form of Sci-fi was the space opera. Robinson's Mars Trilogy is the triumphant return of hard science in novelistic form. But RED MARS is far more than that. It is as political as it is scientific. I can imagine that a few of the people giving the novel low marks are troubled by Robinson's politics, which are further to the left than any prominent politician in America today.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The author's breadth of knowledge in science and political theory is impressive, to be sure. Years of research evidently went into this book. But often it seemed he was straining to showcase just how much he knows. The psychiatrist's long esoterica on human temperaments is a case in point -- dry as the Martian soil and entirely gratuitous. (Where was the editor with scissors?)
Initially, I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the topography and the explanations of how people built the first colony. Beyond the book's halfway point, I was saturated with it -- too much of a good thing. Getting through the last third of the book was a struggle (a coherent plot might have helped here). That disappointed me, because the beginning was engaging.
The characters turned out to be caricatures, not people. How many times could the ultra-grouchy Frank say "shut up" or "you idiot"? And Maya, the Russian beauty with the angst of a note-passing high school sophomore -- what space program let her in?? Then there was the flaky cult leader, and the rigid environmentalist ever flashing righteous scowls. It's an annoying, exaggerated cast of characters with only a few exceptions.
Also irritating was the insertion of the author's political dogmas, which revealed corporations and free-market types as predictably evil, bent on destroying the planet (just as they do on Earth, curse them all). The collectivists, of course, were the ones we were all supposed to cheer.
But OK, lots of it was interesting. The space elevator, terraforming ideas, survival on a hostile world. The author managed to stoke my imagination several times. He proved an able wordsmith, displaying flashes of brilliance at times. But the editors really let him down, I'm afraid. Several hundred pages needed to go and didn't.
Still, for those who like science and believable ideas about interplanetary travel, the book may be worth plodding through in your Martian rover.
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