Review: Red Mars (Mars Trilogy Book 1 of 3)

Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

I had mixed feelings about this book. Although it took me forever to get through it, that had more to do with my schedule than my interest. This is a very descriptive book, and sometimes I get bogged down with descriptive books, but I didn’t have too much trouble with this one because the descriptions were usually limited to a couple paragraphs at a time with more interesting material interspersed. I felt like I had a really good picture in my head of the environment, at least during the first half of the book.


The book starts off with 100 people traveling to Mars to establish a colony. I enjoyed this part of the story – everything from their journey to Mars to their colonization of Mars and the conflicts between the characters about how to establish life on Mars. But the book takes place over a few decades and, somewhere around the halfway point, Mars was suddenly filling up with new people traveling to Mars to make a life for themselves. Everybody had their own ideas about what life on Mars should be like and it seemed like everybody split up into different factions who each were willing to fight for their view of things without concern for the consequences to the planet or to other people. Things started spiraling into chaos and this was where I started to lose interest.


I wanted the story to be more about the original 100 colonists and their struggle to survive and build a thriving colony. I thought the way things spiraled out of control was pretty realistic, and I could see how events could have happened as they were depicted, but I never got very interested in that aspect of the story. I often enjoy books with political intrigue and conflict, but I think my problem with this book was that I thought most of the viewpoints were too extreme and/or too self-centered, so I really wasn’t invested in any one side. The characters also tended to be extreme and/or self-centered, so I never felt invested in the characters either.


The characters were… interesting. The book was split up into sections, with each section being told from the perspective of one of the original 100 colonists. Most of the characters weren’t very likeable, but the way they were portrayed was interesting. It was almost like some sort of psychology study. We saw the characters through different eyes as we read from the perspectives of different characters, and I was struck by the way the author slowly revealed more about each character as we saw them from different perspectives.


I could never be quite sure about the accuracy of how each character perceived things around them because other characters saw things differently. In the first section, Frank was obviously a pretty messed up person but, reading from his perspective, I couldn’t quite tell if he was seeing things accurately and dealing with them badly or if he was just completely delusional. Each new perspective gave a different and more complete picture of the characters inhabiting the story, and yet I was never quite sure if I was getting the real picture since my view was colored by the biases of the characters.


It added an element of realism in terms of how everybody in real life sees themselves and other people one way, but other people have a completely different perspective. I really liked this aspect of the book, even though I never grew attached to any of the characters. The characters often frustrated me. Most of the characters were so wrapped up in their own perspective that they couldn’t see or understand the perspectives of the others, and they were all so wrapped up in trying to meet their own objectives that they didn’t consider the consequences of their actions.


I bought the second book when I was at around the 65% mark in this book, because at that point I was pretty sure I would want to read it. I was going to be traveling so I wanted to make sure I had it available just in case I finished the first book sooner than I expected at a time when I didn’t have WiFi access. If I had waited longer to buy the second book, I probably would have decided not to continue the series since I started to lose interest toward the end. However, now that I have it, I’ll at least give it a try.