About a month ago I decided to take a small break from the classics and tackle Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy instead. Over all it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed the hard approach to science fiction, and the fact that the science part of the equation is pretty much up to date was a nice change of pace from the ’50s take on the future I had been dealing with lately (the books were published between 1993 and 1996). As many have said before me, reading this series comes as close to going to Mars as most of us are likely to get, in fact at times it is a little too detailed for my liking.
The books chronicle the colonization and terraforming of Mars (Red refers to the original surface, Green refers to the appearance of plants and Blue to the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface) as viewed by the original colonists and some of their descendants, and to say that the author has done his homework in that regard would be putting it mildly. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, though I have some problems with the third one. So what went wrong?
Well, for starters there is the fact that, in order to keep his characters around the author had to cheat a little by creating a gerontological treatment to extend their lives… and those of some/most of the rest of humanity. This becomes a major plot point and is presented in interesting terms, but at times it still feels kind of gimmicky. A second problem relates to the first one: even with those life-extending treatments he has to compress the process to such an extent that I am not sure I find it believable. The third and final problem has to do with the fact that, the farther we get from the present and from our current level of technology, the harder the hard SF approach is to maintain, but at the same time after more than a thousand pages there was no way the author could abandon it without what would have been a rather jarring change of pace, the end result is what at times feels like endless pages of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo.
Yes, I loved the struggles of the early days, and the growing pains of Martian society as a whole. I enjoyed the power struggle that emerges, and the different possibilities that the building of a new society from scratch offers, and I even enjoyed the way in which the characters relate to each other, though at times the way in which those interactions are handled can get a little disorienting. I liked how the story was resolved in terms of the original characters –though I am not so sure about their descendants– but, with the third and final book being a bit of a letdown, the whole thing ended up being less than satisfying.
There is a fourth book in this series that is not part of the trilogy as such. It is The Martians. It is a series of related short stories and it was published in 1999, but the truth is that after spending a couple of weeks on the original trilogy I was feeling a little marsed out, so I decided to leave that one for a later date.