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am 8. Juni 2000
There are many who thought that "Blue Mars" failed because it didn't have plot, character development, or action. And to this I laugh. Loud and long.
First, plot. The second attempt to destroy the socket is a major event that catalyzes the beginning of a Martian government. Ann's health and Sax's subsequent intervention lead four of the Martians to a return home. Nirgal tries for the simple life and learns firsthand how terraforming affects day to day life on Mars. Advanced fusion allows settlements on Mercury, the moons of the outer planets, and a starship to Alpha Centauri. And the book closes with a reconcilliation between two characters who have always had their differences. Trying to compare the action and plot in Blue Mars to its two predeccesors is difficult, mostly because those two have <so> much happening there is almost too much action. Think back to Red Mars, if you've read it, and try to summerize everything that happened. It's tough. Blue Mars is a different book, it is more philosophical, more contemplative. Rather than holding these qualities against it, we should commend Robinson for not sticking with the exact same format, and try something different.
As far as the characters go, Sax Russell is the most changed. His relationship with Ann, and all they go through in this book, really cement his status as My Favorite Character. The fact that he changes his whole ideology and practice just to appeal to one person makes him that much more endearing as a character. Ann's thoughts near the end about being several different people makes sense when you think about the journey her character has taken throughout her life. Nadia and Art made the section about the constitution (which I will admit got a little tedious) much more bearable. And Nirgal remained Nirgal throughout, a piece of much-needed stability.
This book is great. Not as great as Red Mars, but that's like comparing The Godfather to The Godfather Part II. I mean, Part II was so immensely good, so beyond good, that trying to compare even a really great movie to it just shows how great it is. So let's dispense with the injustice of consantly comparing Blue Mars to Red Mars.
Read this book. Don't listen to all those reviews that say you'll fall asleep or throw it across the room. Read this book. You will have to pay attention, but if you consider "reading" flipping through the pages until you see something interesting, then you have problems. Read this book. You will be rewarded.
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am 23. Mai 2000
One must truly admire the men and women in the Hugp convention, who chose to give this book the Hugo award for best novel. I'm a long lasting science fiction fan( the kind that get notious everytime someone calls I, Robot 'Sci-Fi' and that shudders to the sight of movie tie ins). I've had my disagreements with the Hugo award decisions, of course, but I had the notion that I knew what they were looking for. Now I know I don't.
I honestly don't know what the common, plot oriented reader can truly get out of Blue Mars. This is not an attempt to grude against the novel, but simply a statement - people like me, who like plot oriented tales, who like characters which are -I can't seem to find the word: passionate, perhaps, or passionly written - well, I don't think you'd find this kind of thing here. I'm certain even the most faithful fan of this book won't call it a page turner, and won't discuss the brilliance of the plot. As for the characters, I personnal cared but for few of them, Sax, Nadia, maybe even Michael and Ann. I still feel that the most fascinating characters - John, and to a greater extent Frank and Andrey(sp?) - were terminated before their time.
It is a subjective statement, I admit, but one that I think is shared by many. Sure, avid fans might ignore it rushly, but I do think the great amount of people who find the characters less than appealing indicates something, not so much about the quality of the writing but of the author's intention.
This is not, as one could think, a Novel of ideas. I do not have the background to challange Mr. Robinson's speculations about physics, chemistry or biology, but at least the economic theory Robinson proposes is shallow, a collection of phrases and slogans and mixture of philosophies that creates the world he envisions.
I think this might be the secret for Robinson's success. For if Ursula K Leguin's The Dispossed was an ambigious utopia, this is a mysterious, science fictional one. I think Mr. Robinson created the future as a land of hard science fiction - where it is science fiction, not science, that transforms the world.
In the Foundation trilogy, Asimov's imaginary science revolutionizes the world, but the science is never exposed in details. In the Mars trilogy Robinson created a science fictional science, and a science fictional Utopia - a world that is changed by the fictional creation of a science.
I think I can see how this is appealing to the hard core science fiction fan. The creation of not only the universe in which the science change the world, as Asimov did, but also of the science itself.
Alas, this vision is not my vision, and the book, an ode for this science fictional science, is not one I can truly enjoy.
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am 17. Dezember 1999
Although Blue Mars may not be the same kind of solid masterpiece of fiction that Red and Green are, it does not detract from the Trilogy as a whole being a masterpiece, and it serves its purpose well as its own kind of masterpiece.
I like to look at each volume of this trilogy in terms of its color. RED was exciting and adventurous; the settlers touched down on a barren but beautiful alien planet and set out to conquer it. GREEN was deep, passionate, and surreal; Mars was beginning to sprout life, the aged settlers were as wise as any century old genius should be, and young Martian born generations were rising up to create a culture of their own.
BLUE is calm, seductive, somewhat depressing, but in a beautiful way that makes you marvel at life.
The revolutions are over and the original settlers are winding down toward the ends of their lives. Meanwhile, the younge generations have come into adulthood and Mars is now theirs. The Martian culture has finally evolved from several diverse cultures into itself.
BLUE is less plot driven than RED and GREEN. While RED and GREEN planted the seeds and guided the growth of life and culture on Mars, BLUE waters it. All the action has been taken care of, and now we sit back and marvel at the results of two centuries of ingenius passion and ambition that has created an entirely new world.
One of the brilliant things about this final volume is that blue Mars can be interpreted as a utopia or a dystopia, depending on the reader's politics and values. Robinson stops writing plot and devoloping new characters, and simply carries out the plots and characters he has already developed to their logical conclusions, and he lets you decide how to interpret them. It seems almost as if Robinson stopped writing altogether, and just let the world and characters that he had already created age on their own like a fine wine. BLUE is more brave and experimental than RED or GREEN, and in a way it is also more brilliant. It seems more a work of philospohical poetry than a novel.
The blue hue of this volume also serves up a beautiful sense of depression, that is not disappointed or regretful about the past but rather sad that everything will soon be over. I am convinced that Robinson interviewed several senior citizens close to the ends of their lives before writing this book, because the mood of the 200 year old characters and of the book itself is so incredibly convincing that I feel like I already know what it will be like to be at the end of my own life several decades from now. The beautiful thing about this sense of sadness toward the end is that while the characters are coming to the ends of their lives, so are you, because throughout this 2000 page epic you have felt as if you were there inside the minds of these brilliant people, who seem like real historical figures out fo a real life future history that was somehow brought back in time and depositied in the 1990's, and when they cease to live, you cease to live through them.
Blue Mars is like The Martians, the book of short stories filling in the gaps of this epic, because it is not so mcuh a story that takes place on Robinson's Mars as it is a study of Robinson's Mars, for true fans and only true fans to enjoy. So if you loved RED and GREEN, do not let the negative reviews on this page discourage you. Those people are not true fans, they have not lived on Robinson's Mars as some of us have, and Blue Mars was not meant for them to understand in the first place. Blue Mars is for the Martians.
am 24. Juli 2015
Who hopes for mind-boggling story arcs, tension, action, character development, and all things that made Red Mars so good... should really keep on scrolling, because you won't find it in Blue Mars.
Instead of following anything resembling a story, Robinson goes into unreasonably long intra-character discussions about human psyche, abstract economy, and everything metaphysical you could ever think of. In doing so he uses the phrases "kind of", "like", "something", "perhaps" to such an inflationary extent that I even now, weeks after completing this novel, cringe whenever I see these phrases in any context. This is not bold fiction, this is Robinson trying to solve all the inner human's riddles by making stuff up, and then rambling for dozens (!) of consecutive pages. Ever wanted to read five consecutive pages discussing different shades of red? This is your chance!
There are some starting point for very good, thrilling story arcs, political schemes, awesome developments, and great science fiction, but Robinson glosses over them in half a page, and only indirectly. (paraphrased: "Character X is now going on this really exciting adventurous trip that will expand human boundaries..Buuuut, she is not the first one to do this, and thousands of other have already taken this trip. Anyway, she leaves, never to be heard of again. Character Y is really sad about that. But she is still with him in his heart [insert 14-pages of discussion of how all life is connected on a subatomic level by phase-locked quantum spin states, after which Character Y is as happy as a bunny again]")
The only two good things about this novel are that it concludes the trilogy in a (somewhat) acceptable manner, and the very vivid and lively description of terraformed Martian landscapes and Martian regions. Put up NASA's newly released Mars map while reading, and you will have a somewhat interesting time with this novel.
am 18. März 2000
Many of the characters in Blue Mars are geriatric survivors from Red Mars, and Robinson is apparently intent on making us feel what it must be like to be pushing 200 years old. It is a stinging indictment of any book this long that, when main characters die, you just don't care. Too many of the series' characters are one-dimensional, and the book-long evolution of Ann and Sax is neither believable nor particularly compelling. Robinson's record on projecting logical consequences seems to be hit and miss. The great flood, which struck me as a bit of a deus ex machina in Green Mars, seems to result in serious consequences only when convenient for the plot. His treatment of economics and politics is just too glib. The gift economy he introduced in Red Mars and periodically trots out is never explained, except in the vaguest terms. The scientific collectives on Mars are free from the necessity of performing market-driven research. Hooray! But who, exactly, is going to buy that new mass spectrometer the lab needs? We know that the workers control the means of production now, but where (external to the collective) is the money (resources, whatever) coming from? As far as the hard science goes, I get the feeling that Robinson can't even keep himself interested. What began in Red Mars as painstaking incremental changes that would take centuries to become noticeable, has become by Blue Mars a sort of magic wand. Gross ecological and geological changes are accomplished with a rapidity that starts to break down the willing suspension of disbelief. It took two books to get enough air on the planet that exposure wouldn't mean instant death; by the middle of Blue Mars, characters are running around naked living off of wild animals, hang gliding, and sailing enormous seas. The Terran subplots seem largely pointless and unconvincing; the only one that contributed significantly was Michel's stunning discovery that you can't go home again. Michael Moorcock's Cornelius Chronicles used the fascinating device of mirroring the societal and physical entropy occuring within the story in its very construction, with events occurring out of sequence and chapters progressively fragmenting. Robinson has succeeded on the same level, making the reader feel as if he is actually experiencing the fatigue of extreme old age...
am 19. August 1999
Blue Mars is a lousy book in a lousy trilogy. It aspires to be the story of a world, and this lofty goal is simply beyond the reach of an author mired in the expression of his own opinions.
In literary terms the trilogy has been a downhill run. At least Red Mars had a plot. Blue Mars is 800 pages of character development. No conflict, no suspense. Nothing. Unfortunatly all Robinson's characters are more-or-less the same: whiney and self-absorbed, not unlike Robinson himself if you've ever heard or read of him publically. Blue Mars basically follows these characters around in their respective wanderings: around Mars, to Earth, Mercury and the outer planets. In the background a constitutional government is set up on Mars, and its early evolution is traced.
Robinson really gets into trouble, though, because he has an extremely shallow understanding of the things he's writing about. Robinson postulated a world that didn't make any sense. It was not internally consistant. This shouldn't fly in hard science fiction. He has a simplistic and unrevealing view of human nature. Pop-psychological tripe. His politics are mired in the 1970s. Big companies are bad and are about to take over (this plot line has petered out by Blue Mars). He thinks population growth is a bad thing. His ideal economy tries to do away with hierarchy and capital markets in favor of democracy and worker ownership. A case of Marx-meets-the-Teamsters
There are also many technical problems with the series. His technical understanding seems, well, borrowed. It is as if he had interviewed a dozen thinkers and asked each of them for a few good ideas. He then incorporates them blindly, and without thinking through their consequences. Each idea (except the longevity treatment and the great flood) gets three pages and then dies, its implications lost. For example, in a society where energy is plentiful and molecular manufacturing mundane, the Earth (which is essentially a ball of heavy elements) inexplicably runs so low on metals that this dominates their relations with other powers. With widespread fusion power (since the first book) Mercury's solar power is still considered useful. Technological is driven by large social projects, top-down, not bottom-up. Ugh.
Robinson would do well to read the works of Julien Simon so his future history wouldn't sound so ridiculous. He should reread the Foundation trilogy so he realizes that even a long book can move. He should fire his editor, as another reader alludes below. And a little character diversity wouldn't go astray.
This book was disapointing, as was the series. Such a grand vista, and such a bland thinker to interpret it. I give it two stars, only because it was possible for it to have been even worse. If one reads with a skeptical eye, there are some things of interest. But probably you should just save your money.
am 23. Juli 1999
In many ways, it is a pity that the trilogy that began with Red Mars should end with Blue Mars. The book disappointed me, although I was crazy in love with the other two. It was as if KSR had run out of ideas, or as if, due to the huge success of the previous two books, he was pushed to publishing Blue Mars way before he was ready.
Do not mistake me, the book is not bad. It simply isn't half as good as the other two of the series. It was the first one of the trilogy that made me feel that it included too much science and too little characterisation. Many themes that were already discussed in Red & Green Mars returned in this book, but nothing new was added, either to the sociopolitical issues or to the actual history of the people that we learnt to love, respect or intensively dislike in the previous books.
I don't even know what to suggest to others who have loved Red & Green Mars. To read Blue Mars will probably disappoint them, as it did me. Not to read it will probably leave them with the question "How does it end? What happens to the remaining of the first 100? And what happens to the beautiful newly-born planet & society we left full of hope in Green Mars?" I guess the suggestion is probably read it, if only for the sake of the other two.
Left at that, Blue Mars probably merited only two stars. I gave it the 3rd star for only one reason : at the end, it makes us see there can actually be no end. Mars may be fully terraformed, but this does not and will not stop humans from seeking their destiny among the stars. There is no end to human curiosity & ingenuity, no limits to human endeavor, and therefore there is no end of hope for our race. Our place is among the stars. This is the common link between all three books, and it is a message worth hearing.
am 19. Juli 1998
Let's face it: the best book in Robinson's Mars trilogy is the first one. After that, he coasts for another 1300+ pages, perhaps realizing that many readers will finish the trilogy either on principle or out of some internally driven obsessive compulsion (I probably fit into the latter category).
The final book in the trilogy is easily the weakest. The plot is plodding and uninteresting, the descriptions of the planet as its "terraforming" process continues are excessive and often boring, and the now-ancient surviving members of the "First Hundred" are insufferably always the same. Robinson knows a LOT about many contemporary fields of science, and it's to his credit that he attempts to share this knowledge with his readers. However, his presentations of this information usually take the form of long, cul-de-sac-like digressions which left me with the impression that Robinson chose to use this final Mars novel as a kind of bully pulpit to publi! cize his particular viewpoints regarding various scientific controversies. He also shows a vigorous and sometimes refreshing interest in the possibilities for new political and economic structures in the future, but ultimately, his ideas seem a muddle. He introduces, for example, the notion that there might be a "good" transnational corporation in the future that can play the financial and technological White Knight for those who wish to be free of interplanetary imperialistic capitalism. How this ultimately works, however (and what really makes "Praxis" different from its competitors), is left to our imaginations. The corporate spy sent by Praxis to Mars in *Green Mars* goes native in a hurry and then simply becomes another "good guy" in the story.
The book is badly in need of editing. There are loose ends everywhere--solid, stolid Nadia, for example, becomes Free Mars' first President, and then predictably begins to exhibit despotic tende! ncies. Just as this latest manifestation of the old adage ! that "power corrupts" begins to gather steam, however, that thread is dropped--forever. And what DID ever happen to the quasi-mystical Hiroko? Did Robinson forget to tell us, or are we simply supposed to intuit our own version of what her mysterious fate might be?
One of the strong points of *Red Mars* was its overall apparent credibility. As one read the book, it really seemed that the various twists and turns in the plot were prophetic as to what might well happen if and when Mars is ever colonized. In *Blue Mars*, however, things start going "Buck Rogers." Consider this: in the future, humans will colonize Mercury by building an enclosed city that moves constantly on big railroad tracks around and around the planet to escape that world's temperature extremes. Hmmmmm. Other people will build cities for the near-weightless on the moons of Uranus, and still others will burrow into asteroids to create little mini-colonies that travel hither and yon. ! I also confess to finding it hard to believe that through scientific legerdemain Mars will (or can) be turned into a kind of mirror of earth, complete with genetically engineered polar bears and puffins. By the end, the entire trajectory of the "terraforming" process strains reader credulity. Yeah, I guess I lack imagination. On the other hand, even "Star Trek" never has gone to such extremes in its claims for future technological breakthroughs.
Overall, I recommend that readers buy and read *Red Mars*, and then skip the final two books of the trilogy.
am 16. August 1997
I hate to give a book by the brilliant Kim Stanley
Robinson a mere 7, but this one--in fact the whole
huge trilogy--could have used another revision (a task I wouldn't wish on anyone). The grammar is shaky at points and a lot of the sentences could be clearer--not what you'd expect from Robinson's lapidary short stories and earlier novels. There are enough scientific bobbles to suggest that Robinson didn't always understand what he was writing about, and he could have taken out a TAD of the areology. I would have liked a harder look at Robinson's usual socialist/anarchist politics. Who gives the scientists at Da Vinci food? What
happens to people who don't feel like working? How did Nadia handle her departure from power?
But it's a tribute to Robinson's incredible achievement that I must imagine any reader of these books has a vivid picture of Nadia, and Maya and John and Frank and Sax (the most successfully drawn character) and Ann and Jackie and.... Surely any reader knows just what I mean when I wish we had seen more of Nirgal, and experiences a pleasure of familiarity on reading such phrases as "long run-out", "ecopoet", "Dorsa Brevia", and "the four great volcanoes". Though things get a little mechanical at times, Robinson made Mars real and his characters real to me. Too bad his incredible achievement was a really good trilogy, not an incredible trilogy like his Three Californias books.
am 4. November 1997
I don't see how anyone can give this book and it's predecessors less than a 9. I disagree with some of the political and economic evolution. Robinson has a mildly socialist leaning, but the politics is such a small part of the entire experience of these books. Experience is the operative word. These books, unlike any I have read in a while, take you into deep characterization of the people and deeply into being on Mars. It changed my perception of Mars forever. I found myself deeply affected by the descriptions of the landscapes and geography of Mars. It is almost as if Mr Robinson lived on Mars hundreds of years hence and came back to describe them to us. I felt as if I have been to Mars. I cried at some points in the book. I really felt what these characters felt. Sometimes it seems long, but, I appreciated the detail because in the end I had a much deeper appreciation for the situations of the characters. I will never forget Sax and Nadia. Even Boone, who does not live past the first book reverberates with clarity as I write this months after reading the first book. This is such a rare combination of hard science fiction, good story telling and deep characterization that it must rank as one of the best science fiction stories of all time. I eagerly await the time when we can test all of Mr Robinsons extensive theories and see how the real colonization of Mars unfolds.