I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
For eons, sandstorms have swept the desolate landscape. For centuries, Mars has beckoned humans to conquer its hostile climate. Now, in 2026, a group of 100 colonists is about to fulfill that destiny.
John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers & Arkady Bogdanov lead a terraforming mission. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage & madness. For others it offers an opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. For the genetic alchemists, it presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life & death. The colonists orbit giant satellite mirrors to reflect light to the surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth. Massive tunnels, kilometers deep, will be drilled into the mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves & friendships will form & fall to pieces--for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.
A “hard” science fiction book which takes the reader to Mars with the First Hundred settlers, tasked with making the planet livable for humans. There’s a lot of science in this one, folks, and not presented in Andy Weir’s humorous fashion as in The Martian. There were actually a couple of equations and diagrams, so if that kind of stuff gives you a rash, strike this book from your TBR.
Now, I’m generally a preferential fantasy reader, but I’m also a fan of science fiction, even occasionally this kind of technical science fiction, but I found the amount of detail about the building of things, the science of trying to change the atmosphere, the geology, etc., to be a bit excessive. If all the science-y stuff really turns your crank, you will love Red Mars.
This author could really have taken some lessons on describing landscapes from Zane Grey. Grey wrote romantic westerns in the early 20th century and is acknowledged for his beautiful descriptions of the settings of his tales. Mars in this book becomes rather like a wild west, also with some awesome (in the original sense of that word) landscape features, but they tend to be described in terms of physics, rather than the beauty that is inherent in them. Having seen the movie version of The Martian with its gorgeous planetary scenes, I feel there was room for a bit less utilitarian description of the features of Mars.
I’m glad that the author chose to have women in the First Hundred and that a couple of them achieve high standing among them. That said, there were some dynamics in the group that were awfully predictable. The two people who reach the highest are, of course, white American men. The author is a white American man, and its true that these positions have been disproportionately inhabited by that demographic, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if someone else rose to that level on Mars? There’s a lot of talk about building a new, fresh society, but things end up back in the old rut. (Perhaps that’s what the author intended, to be fair). There are also Russians on this mission, but they are stereotypically fixated on socialism and revolutionary plans. The two Russian women followed throughout the book are polar opposites—Maya is beautiful, emotional, flighty, and manipulative, while Nadia is plain, practical, solid, and steady. I loved Nadia, despite the fact that she was an engineer’s engineer, totally fixated on building and problem solving. But really, are those the only roles available to us? Beautiful prima donnas or practical Plain Janes?
I liked the book well enough that I will read the next one in the series, and not just because it is part of my reading project, but it will never be one of my favourites. And that’s okay, because it will be loved by the people who love this kind of book.
Book number 288 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.