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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Green Mars

Green Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
“Technically he weighed about forty kilos, but as he walked along it felt more like five. Very strange, even unpleasant. Like walking on buttered glass.”
This is my favorite feature of hard science fiction, the little minutiae that make the imaginary scenes not merely believable but also visceral; more vivid to me than riding on a dragon’s back and such. I like Kim Stanley Robinson’s conception of a Mars in the process of terraformation where global warming is actually a good thing!

Green Mars is the second book of KSR’s famous Mars trilogy, it follows on from Red Mars 50 years later where terraforming is in full swing. Many of “The First Hundred” characters (original colonists) from Red Mars play a significant part in this second volume, even the dead ones are often mentioned. The main story arc of Green Mars concerns terraformation and the fight for independence from Earth (bound to happen). Interestingly a faction of the Mars population, many of whom were born on Mars and have never been to Earth, are against terraforming and want to preserve Mars in its natural state. This is “The Reds” faction, their objection is (I think) for aesthetic reasons and to preserve what they perceive to be the purity of the pre-colonized planet. Their opposition comes from “The Greens” who want to fully terraform Mars so people can walk freely on the surface as we do on Earth.

Aside from the epic story arc the novel is very much a character study, to the detriment of my enjoyment of the book. The central characters are quite well developed, believable and complex individuals; the problem is that what they get up to is often not very interesting at all. There is a fascinating character named Sax Russell whose personal story is very dramatic at times and he ends up much the worse for wear. However, there are many pages where he is basically pottering around, studying plants, lichens, ice etc. This kind of narrative is very dry and my mind started to wander after a few such pages. Then there is Maya Toitovna who spends a lot of the novel inside her head, being very angry, resentful and unreasonable until she eventually works out her psychological problems. There are simply too many pages focused on her angst, which becomes quite tiresome, especially as I don’t personally identify with her problems

Green Mars has several protagonists (four or five I think) and the common problem with multiple points of view in a novel is very much in place here. Some characters are more interesting than others, and even the interesting ones spend too much time ruminating on issues, personal, scientific or philosophical; dragging the narrative down in the process.

Kim Stanley Robinson is an uncommonly good prose stylist for a hard SF writer. He comes up with pithy lines such as “It was not power that corrupted people, but fools who corrupted power.”; and almost lyrical passages like “In the first hour of the day all the ice glowed in vibrant pink and rose tones, reflecting tints of the sky. As direct sunlight struck the glacier’s smashed surfaces.”. However, he seems less interested in pacing and storytelling than to explore the issues that interest him, people, power, politics etc. I think he did a better job balancing the storytelling and the serious issue in Red Mars. Green Mars starts off well, gradually grinds to a halt, occasionally livens up with danger and explosive action, only to grind to a halt again. To be honest by the end of the book I have already lost interest.

Having read two volumes of the trilogy so far and really like the first one I am ambivalent about reading the final volume [b:Blue Mars|77504|Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy, #3)|Kim Stanley Robinson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388181161s/77504.jpg|40711]. It will be a shame not to read it having come this far, but at this point I don’t really know if I have the fortitude to plow through another volume so dry the book itself needs to be tarraformed.