Mars has been in the news a lot recently. What’s the big deal?
Getting to Mars would be no simple feat. Creating a new human enclave on the surface would be a whole order of magnitude harder. The idea is to send a group of people to make Mars habitable for humans to ensure the survival of the species. That’s a BIG deal. However, Mars One appears to be a hoax, and Elon Musk has some crazy plans to get us there, with quite a few problems. But way back in 1992, science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson laid out a very detailed, quite plausible prospect with his magnum opus, the Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars.
Why read the trilogy?
These are big books. Each of the three is over 600 pages long, but they need to be. Robinson manages to pack an absolute ton of science into each volume. From initial landing to late-game settlements, there is not one aspect of terraforming missed in this saga. And it isn’t the actual rocket science and physics that we see in the news, but all the sciences. Biology plays a big role in the slow creation of moss and eventually plants on the surface, which is part of creating an atmosphere. Even sociology is an important factor, whether it is the small-scale relationships of the first 100 settlers, or the interplanetary politics that take hold of the story. There are so many ideas per page that the value for money is unparalleled.
You may be worried that the books are a little boring with all this science. Fear not. First, the characters are all well-rounded and fascinating with all their intricacies. Whether it is hot-headed Maya or charismatic John Boone, you will fall in love with at least a few characters, who, thanks to genetic therapy, manage to live for hundreds of years as they build a new world. The plot is never dragged out, and the story of revolution and political backstabbing is never slow. Red Mars also has one of the most dramatic final sequences in science fiction history, as the world our heroes made comes crashing down. Forget Birth of a Nation, this is Birth of a Planet.
This is what science fiction is all about.
The idea of space colonisation is one rich with potential. Humans have dreamed about visiting the stars for generations, and the topic is not in danger of being exhausted. There’ve been dozens of movies and a long list of literature centred on the Red Planet. But the themes in Robinson’s Mars Trilogy are ones that the writer returns to and retreads, constantly kneading them towards a full-scale picture. Icehenge is an early, even immature glimpse of the terrain he would cover in Red Mars. Last year’s Green Earth (an edited bind-up of the Science in the Capital trilogy) focuses heavily on politics and climate change on Earth. And his latest novel, Aurora, comes at interplanetary exploration from a much more down-to-earth perspective, essentially proposing that it isn’t worth the effort. A big change of tone from the man who imagined a colonised Mars. Kim Stanley Robinson has written about almost every aspect of space travel.
There’s a final reason to read the trilogy: so you can say you read it before the TV show gets made. The show would definitely be a mix between The Martian and Game of Thrones. Epic and deadly politics, with a good dose of sciencing-the-sh*t out of things. If you want to get the lowdown on what it would be like to go to Mars, you can’t go past the Mars Trilogy.
SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Before I read Red Mars, a friendly soul told me how to read the book. For some reason, the first chapter is the only chapter that is chronologically out of order. Within this chapter SOMETHING HAPPENS. Something which is essentially a spoiler. Anyway, what you should do is skip Part One: Festival Night and start reading at Part Two: The Voyage Out. When you get to Part Six: Guns Under the Table go back to Part One: Festival Night and read it. Once finished, continue from Part Six: Guns Under the Table. Thank me later.