Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars — still amazing 30 years later

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Read the first two in HS. Aboslutely loved them. Almost broke down hard reading toward the end of the first book in a study hall (if you’ve read it, you’ll know what part/s).

Truly a great novel, as well as Green and Blue Mars, well worthy of a read.

Still waiting on that tv series…


Really liked Red Mars. I lost interest in the series after after that, I don’t think I finished Green, much less Blue. I should give it another go at some point.

Loved Aurora though, mostly because I’m of the mind that realistic space travel would super suck.


Andromeda Strain made a huge impression on me as a kid — that was the first time I was aware that nerds are more likely to save the Earth than caped crusaders.

LOL I’ve known scientists who hate Crichton as the bad guy is always science gone wrong.


There is certainly tons of historical evidence to support that claim that science can “go wrong” or even be used for nefarious purposes. Certainly doesn’t mean science itself is bad, just that it’s a tool and can be used in various ways (to help or to hurt).


I wasn’t saying science is bad or can’t go wrong, I was saying it was scientists (and I’m sure some scientists will like him too) that put forward the reason they don’t like Crichton so doubt they were saying science is bad. Just been reading about what he’s been up to State of Fear - Wikipedia couldn’t be more different than KSR on climate, in depth research.


This is one of the few sci-fi books that I put down without finishing - I found it incredibly dry - those long descriptive passages felt tedious to me. I should probably give it another attempt at some stage, so many people sing its praises.


Oh sure… when it comes to getting science right, KSR is most certainly more on the ball than Crichton. But, whatever his failures as a writer employing science, it’s not an entirely bad way to help a reader of popular fiction maybe come at science as is popularly understood in a bit more of a skeptical manner. Science is not neutral, after all. But of the two, obviously KSR cares more about accurately depicting how science is a tool and isn’t really neutral. Crichton is often a bit too black and white in his writing.


Crichton ended his days as a bit of a kook.


I don’t know about ended his days. I remember some bit from one of his older books where one of the characters talks about how academia is a dead end and that the future was in big business. I was in my teens, it was the first time I had encountered ayn-cap thinking and I got the feeling that came from his heart.


Distressingly, that’s become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy since neo-liberal governments have worked hand in hand to gut academia and make it more friendly to corporate interests…


Yeah, Crichton’s memoir Travels reveals him to have been a kook all along. He’s convinced that he bent spoons with his mind and performed astral projection as a younger guy - not exactly what I expected from an author whose brand is “scientific plausibility.”


Michael Chrichton had a lot of issues but one reason I gave up on reading his books was because he had so little imagination when it came to how the fantastical technologies in his books might actually be used.

Westworld: What if humans developed incredibly advanced robotics and AI, and then used that tech to build an amusement park where people could experience what life was like in a past era? (But then it goes wrong!)

Jurassic Park: What if humans developed incredibly advanced genetic engineering capabilities that could resurrect extinct species, and then used that tech to build an amusement park where people could experience what life was like in a past era? (But then it goes wrong!)

Timeline: What if humans invented unfathomably powerful quantum computers that enabled historians to travel back in time, and then used that tech to build an amusement park where people could experience what life was like in a past era? (But then it goes wrong!)


He also liked ripping off classics

Eaters of the Dead (filmed as The 13th Warrior): let’s retell Beowulf and add real life chronicler of Vikings, Ibn Fadlan

Congo: let’s retell King Solomon’s Mines


I read these books when they were new and loved them. Then I tried again about a year ago, and it felt like a soap opera so I gave up.


One thing that has changed since they came out is that Robinson no longer believes that it’s really feasible to colonize Mars, or even that most manned space exploration is a good idea. (See Aurora mentioned above) it moves the story from a “Wow! Look what we could do!” narrative closer to “what quaint ideas they had back then”.

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What I liked about “Red Mars” was the way the scientists faced the realities. The extreme temperature swings, dust storms, solar radiation, composition of the atmosphere, etc. Whenever I hear people talking about colonizing Mars without mentioning any of these problems, I know they should not be taken seriously. More generally, colonizing Mars should not be taken seriously. None of the closed habitat “experiments” here on Earth have worked out, so it’s kind of a stretch to think it’ll work on Mars.

I also like how Red Mars had a large group of people make the trip. The idea that a handful of people could make a go of it over the long-term, given all the different kinds of expertise you need to keep humans alive in such a hostile place seems improbable at best.

The ideas from the book were memorable, but looking back, I can’t remember hardly any of the characters. I recall one woman who was anti-terraforming, and a man who may have been called Sax or Sachs, who happened to work with a plant called saxifrage. It’s strange what sticks with you after 30 years.


Timeline is my go-to example of a novel that I absolutely hated but still managed to finish. He had his moments (Jurassic Park obviously) but he put out a lot of crap.

In later years, Crichton would start out with a horrible premise (Rising Son, Disclosure and State of Fear come to mind) and let’s just say that didn’t help. I don’t think it helped that these were almost certainly written with the movie in mind.


I read and enjoyed the whole series, along with other of his books. I regularly roll out this quote from Green Mars:

That’s libertarians for you — anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.


The Mars series was well written, and did attempt to address the science.
The problem remains that Mars doesn’t have the mass to retain a terraformed
atmosphere nor, lacking a molten, rotating core, the ability to generate a protective
Van Allen radiation belt to protect that atmosphere from being blown away by the
solar wind. If you plan to spend time on Mars, it will be IN Mars, in protected
underground installations.