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The Martians is a collection of stories, alternate histories, poems, and even the complete text of a planetary constitution based on Kim Stanley Robinson's award-winning Mars trilogy (composed of Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars). For those unfamiliar with the series, The Martians from the title are the humans who have colonized and terraformed the Red Planet over the course of several generations. While Robinson told their story at considerable length in his novels, The Martians fleshes out some of his more interesting characters and also adds depth to their world.
When it's at its best, this collection presents stand-alone stories of life, love, and work on our celestial neighbor, ranging from the tale of an expedition seeking to conquer Olympus Mons in "Green Mars" to a folksy story of friendship and baseball in "Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars." Unfortunately, some of the material here can be tough going for those unfamiliar with Robinson's Mars milieu. For instance, the ending piece, "Purple Mars," is apparently an autobiographical snippet about the day Robinson finished writing the final novel. That's great stuff for someone who has been following the entire Mars saga from beginning to end, but newcomers will probably not know what to make of it.
Still, there is enough material here to interest anyone on the lookout for some good Mars stories. Although Robinson has made his name by writing fat novels that span dozens of generations and characters, in The Martians he proves that he is also adept at shorter pieces. It's a fine if somewhat uneven collection that serves to round out the Mars universe while providing some excellent reading. --Craig E. Engler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
With a Nebula and two Hugos to its credit, Robinson's monumental Mars trilogy (Red Mars, etc.) is one of the most honored series in the history of science fiction. Having finished the trilogy, however, and gone on to write yet another major novel, Antarctica, Robinson realized that he simply wasn't done with the red planet. There were important episodes in the lives of his major characters that hadn't made it into the novels. There were alternate possibilities that he still yearned to explore. There were pages of essays, vignettes, fables, poems, and fictional science and history, all demanding to be written. This collection represents Robinson's further thoughts on Mars. It encompasses a number of new short stories, including at least two set in alternate universes where events have taken place quite differently than in the novels. Among the best entries are "Coyote Makes Trouble," which concerns a plot to capture one of the planet's leading revolutionaries; "Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars," about the effect of Martian gravity on America's favorite pastime; and "Sexual Dimorphism," which involves a Martian scientist whose work strangely echoes his personal life. Also included is "Green Mars," a previously published novella about climbing Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar systemAa wonderful story that, curiously, has no direct connection to Robinson's later novel of the same name. Some of the pieces here will be of interest only to those who have already read the trilogy, but the finest of the short fiction stands firmly on its own. As is the norm with Robinson's work, the stories are beautifully written, the characters are well developed and the author's passion for ecology manifests on every page. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Martians" is a collection of short stories set at various stages during the overall arch of the trilogy. Robinson's main strengths are still here: scientific rigor and some excellent descriptions of the landscape of Mars both before and after terraforming. He uses different narrative styles for each story, and some work better than others. The high point is a novella-length narrative about a mountain-climbing expedition. On the other end of the scale, some shorter stories and a collection of poems at the end don't score so highly with me. But the big problem I have with this book is that it doesn't really add anything to the trilogy as a whole. "The Martians" seems more like a collection of vaguely interesting ideas that just didn't fit neatly into any of the three novels. As a separate collection, however, they don't come close to being as thought-provoking as the originals.
Several of the stories feature the same characters (some of them are from the original Mars novels and others aren't). Just about all of these characters seem to embody some part of Robinson's idealized self, or collection of selfs. Which is to say, each of them does a good job of representing some idea, worldview, or professional interest in a fashion that makes it understandable to you. As a consequence, they all make a lasting impression.
There are quite a few other protaganists you are never able to connect to though, and they invariably seem to appear in the most
technically interesting stories. Although, to be honest, "technically interesting" is stretching it. It is fairly clear Robinson did little original research for this collection. There is a little bit of bioinformatics and quantitative genomics, but not much, and not enough to teach you anything. This is in sharp contrast to his Mars series, where you couldn't help but learn something about geology (or areology), planetary engineering, and physics.
Still, all that said, there are a few truly great stories in the collection. Stories that take you to a 22nd or 23rd century Mars, and let you, even if only for a short time, live a future you will otherwise never know. So, in the end, the Martians provides some excellent morsels, and some forgettable rmablings. Whether or not the book is worth purchasing depends on how badly you want the few exceptional stories. Just go into the book knowing that there aren't all that many of them.
So, where I was slightly miffed by Greg Bear's "Eon" series and some of its amazing similarities to Clarke's "Rama" (superficially anyway), at least those books were interesting, enjoyable, and brisk. With "The Martians," Robinson is far dirtier. He seems to have focused on making *more* money off the success of his trilogy, and has completely thumbed his nose at his Mars series fans in the process by tricking us into buying and reading painfully slow, horribly disconnected drivel. ...Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you haven't read Robinson's Mars trilogy you will be totally lost, but if you have, The Martians adds some extra depth to those stories and in my opinion makes a fine addition... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Don Loughran
The three books in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars Trilogy" are my absolute all-time-favorites. So, it comes as no surprise that when this book was published, I immediately snapped it... Read morePublished on March 28 2003 by book_review_grrl
The trick ending to the first story is cute, but that's about all that's cute here. Easily about 1/2 of the book is taken up with narrations of hiking. Read morePublished on Jan. 19 2003 by Serious reader
I hesitated over buying this one, after reading some of the reviews here, but I'm glad I bought it. It's true that it is uneven, a bit dull in parts, but I found many of the... Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2002 by David A. Farnell
Notes and outtakes from the Mars series that should have been left on the cutting room floor. It appears that someone wanted to squeeze every red cent out of the success of the... Read morePublished on March 11 2002 by Lyndon Skillman
The science was OK but the fiction was decidedly female, even feminist, and rife with 1990's-style political correctness. Unworthy of a Hugo. Read morePublished on March 10 2002
This book is for those who completed (and adored) Robinson's Mars trilogy. And for Nobody Else. So if you haven't read them (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars), then "The Martians"... Read morePublished on March 9 2002
I absolutely loved the Mars trilogy, but this book is a bunch of annoying out-takes. All kinds of things happen that contradict the trilogy, so you're never clear which storylines... Read morePublished on Sept. 19 2001 by Alan Hart