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5.0 out of 5 stars Mars is Red - but not for long
Robinson's "Red Mars" is a comprehensive and complete book on man's colonization of Mars. It is full of scientific, political and economic consequences of human settlement on Mars, and arguments from both sides are presented in detail through the opposing perspectives of different characters within the book. In addition, the book is full of symbolism, such as...
Published on March 22 2004 by Phome

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3.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels I�ve read. (But maybe it goes a littl
Kim Stanley Robinson does incredible work in this magnificent story of the colonization of Mars. The way he describes the many opinions of the characters in Red Mars is extremely well thought-out. His research is obviously very professional and the scientific information seems absolutely true.
I liked the way he used sections and chapters; the sections would be the...
Published on March 9 2004


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4.0 out of 5 stars God and the devil in the details, July 7 2004
By 
Dennis Grace (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
Kim Stanley Robinson does a masterful job of realizing a diverse array of characters, not the least of which is the planet itself. I found Ann and Frank exasperating, John and Nadia at times exhilirating and something of a disappointment, Sax and Hiroko equally inscrutable, and Maya making me wish someone would just slap her. I am astonished that anyone can keep track of so many personnae and keep their voices distinct.
Equally, I am astonished by Robinson's command of geology, meteorology, thermodynamics, and even economics. The details read well and ring true. For years, I wondered why no one had covered this sort of project in detail: terraformation, colonization, expansion. Most writers seem satisfied to take these things as read. Robinson shows what a great literary work a little delving (okay, a whole lot of delving) can produce.
On the down side, the details occasionally get in his way. In particular, I found three details more than a little discomfiting.
First, in the personna of Michel, Robinson outlines his personal psychometry of personalities. In doing so, he provides both an oversimplification of human character and an unwelcome glimpse at Robinson's methodology for building characters. Like sausage-making and legislation, perhaps this process would have been better left unexamined.
Second, I think the abundance of water in the substrate of Robinson's Mars is more than a tad optimistic. I realize that having to bring in water ice from the asteroid belt and Saturn's rings would have slowed the development quite a bit, but considering what a wealth of story Robinson typically finds in the details, I think this obstacle would have made for even more excellent writing opportunities.
Third, in a move that appears nothing more than a technique to allow character continuity, Robinson introduces the deus ex machina of a revolutionary new genetic longevity treatment. With no foreshadowing or side-plot leading to it, the main characters suddenly have a chance to live for a thousand years. My, how convenient. This device left he second guessing the author's motives through the rest of the series. I love the books, but I don't think this was a necessary addition. As the principal plotline of this first book readily demonstrates, key characters can die without compromising the story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mars is Red - but not for long, March 22 2004
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
Robinson's "Red Mars" is a comprehensive and complete book on man's colonization of Mars. It is full of scientific, political and economic consequences of human settlement on Mars, and arguments from both sides are presented in detail through the opposing perspectives of different characters within the book. In addition, the book is full of symbolism, such as the "elevator" that is built, only to be pulled down by the hands of the revolution destroying much of the Martian surface and dispersing humans in a manner that made me think of the Tower of Babel.
The story begins on a spaceship of the "first hundred" people that are off to begin life on Mars. All of them are scientists, which of course makes for a less than complete representation of human kind, although full of intellectualism and nutty personalities. The mission is meant to be representative of the world's nationalities, dominated by American and Russian teams. Each group of scientists have their own tasks, whether it is flying the space craft, cultivating food, construction once on Mars, ecologists to study Mars, terraformers, biologists, physicists, and even a psychologist.
The 8 month journey to Mars is enough to drive some people crazy, and Maya, the Russian leader thinks that she is hallucinating when she unwittingly spots a man whom she does not know onboard the spacecraft. People develop relationships and hatreds, and their true personalities start to come out after hiding most of their peculiarities from the selection committee to be able to go to Mars.
Robinson follows different characters for each part of the book, and this makes it a more interesting and in-depth read, as we get different viewpoints on how the people see Mars and what they want from the planet. Some, like Ann, oppose its terraforming, whilst others, such as Sax, can think of nothing but. Hiroko suddenly disappears with a small group of the first hundred and no-one can find them. John and Frank hit heads about how the planet should be run, and one day John is murdered - a shock to everyone.
Politics starts to play an important role as the first hundred decide they will do whatever they want on Mars rather than be controlled by Earth. They are free. Only, they really aren't. Before they know it, waves of immigrants from Earth, sponsored by transnational corporations begin to live on the planet. But Mars is not its own nation and does not have a cohesive political or police structure. Problems quickly rise to a peak and the first hundred realise they are no longer in control.
A revolution begins and is chaotic and uncontrollable. Infrastructure collapses as it is sabotaged. Finally, Nadia the engineer, after finding out that her lover Arkady who began the revolution has been killed by it, decides that enough is enough and she blows up Phobos in an attempt to stop Earth and transnational control and interference. The first hundred realise that they will be seen as ringleaders of the revolution and that they must escape - will they be rescued by Hiroko's detachment?
The book is so complete and full of facts that it is a must for anyone with a passion for Mars and science. It is also a must for those that would think to colonize Mars in the future - as a guide of how not to do it.
A very realistic perspective, well thought out, and a foresight of consequences that gives me goose bumps.
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3.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels I�ve read. (But maybe it goes a littl, March 9 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
Kim Stanley Robinson does incredible work in this magnificent story of the colonization of Mars. The way he describes the many opinions of the characters in Red Mars is extremely well thought-out. His research is obviously very professional and the scientific information seems absolutely true.
I liked the way he used sections and chapters; the sections would be the only ones with titles and they would begin with italicized thoughts or stories of "Big Man," or the discovery of the alchemist's most desired breakthrough. And each section would be from the point of view of an individual character. The sections have chapters but they don't have titles, and this type of format provides very enjoyable reading, because the ideas clearly help me process the story.
And yet, as I read deeper into the book, I also read deeper into his mind: and what I found I did not like. Throughout the book, the intimacy of the characters is more and more revealed, but actions of the characters are not necessary to portray the beauty and the grandeur of the story of Mars that Robinson so passionately portrays. If only he refrained from this, I would have enjoyed it immensely more.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Plodding and tedious, Jan. 27 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
Kim Stanley Robinson has done his homework. He knows all about atompsheric partial pressures and soil ecology. He knows how to convey information via the written word competently. He knows not the first thing about people or fiction writing, though, and that's unfortunate. The Mars "trilogy" is a single boring, shapeless mass of words. The characters are laughably two-dimensional symbols, avatars for ideas or concepts -- they're not people. If they were, you wouldn't want to know them.
And they talk. They talk and talk and talk. They argue and argue. They talk about terraforming, they talk about politics, they talk about each other, in an endless cycle of debates, meetings, conventions, committees, assemblies, conclaves and arguments. Robinson has invented a kind of Model UN, he has worked to draw charts of manufactured political factions boring each other to death in interminable meetings. It is not interesting. It was not worthwhile to expend this effort towards such a boring end.
What is most depressing is not the boring storyline, the endless loops of the same argument, the stupid and contemptible behaviour of many of the characters, but Robinson's contempt for the English language. English, to him, is just a tool; a means of expressing information. If he could write fiction in equations he would. He ends sentences with "etc., etc." and tells us about his characters' lavatorial habits. He shows not a shred of joy, of affinity for his medium. There is no structure; "Red Mars", "Green Mars" and "Blue Mars" are all the same book. That this deathless, humorless prose is used to trace out a saga of such incomprehensible tedium is unforgiveable. Only the bland competence of the whole endeavor rescues it from complete failure; and even then Robinson has missed things: the SI unit of pressure is the Pascal, not the Bar, and that Kelvins don't come in degrees.
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4.0 out of 5 stars great first book for a sci fi trilogy, Dec 2 2003
By 
Steffanie (Kent, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of the better science fiction books I've read in quite awhile. I originally read the first two novels a few years back.
One of the things I love about this book is how much of the Mars geography and geology the author details. The plot line is very good, giving a lot of characters to follow but not jumping around too much until the reader is ready. I also like how it starts out with the assasination of one of the main characters, going into a sort of mystery novel type of thing before spending most of the rest of the book retracing the history of the settlers and Mars up to that point in time.
The second novel is quite good as well, taking off where the first book ends and spending a lot of time with some of the more extremist characters and their activities against the Mars government. The third novel seems to lose the driving plot the other two books have, and admittedly, I've never finished it, so I can't comment on whether Robinson pulls it together in the end in a satisfactory way.
Basically, if you like epic sci fi with lots of solid scientific description strewn through out, then this series is for you or at least the first two novels.
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4.0 out of 5 stars First instalment of a modern science fiction epic, July 18 2003
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This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
The future history of Mars. The story begins with the "first hundred" Mars settlers and their struggle to colonise a new world. Differences soon appear amongst them regarding their future course on the planet while relations with Earth also start to come under strain. The novel ends with revolution, as the colonists attempt to seize control of their own destiny.
Red Mars and its two sequels deserve their status among science fiction's literary achievements. The scope and depth of Mr Robinson's research is breathtaking. His descriptions of Mars will almost certainly convince you that he has somehow actually visited the planet. His account of how the initial colonisation of the planet would happen is plausible and realistic on so many levels, with interesting theories on how a Martian colony would develop sociologically, politically, economically and so on.
I did enjoy reading this first instalment of the trilogy and was able to take it on its own merits, however I have to say it will not be to every taste. The plot is slow moving, the characters are essentially of the stock variety and the lengthy passages on Martian geology will turn off the majority of people. For this reason, Red Mars will mainly appeal to hard core sci-fi fans only.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Red Mars, April 30 2003
By 
not4prophet (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
The colonization of the Solar System has been a big topic in science fiction for decades, and yet no book on the subject has met with as much success as Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. The explanation is simple. When writing these books, Robinson went to great lengths to include every aspect of how human life would change on another planet. When describing the first manned mission to Mars and the experience of the "First Hundred" settlers, he looks in depth at all sorts of topics ranging from psychology (How would it feel to be constantly faced by a planet that appeared completely different from Earth?) to the politics of terraforming (Would everybody agree to plans to introduce life and create a biosphere on Mars, or would some people resist?) Robinson displays solid scientific knowledge in an incredible array of fields, and carefully weaves descriptions of the scientific progress that gets made into the story of the settlers' efforts to colonize the planet.
One of the best facets of "Red Mars" is the incredible description of the landscapes of Mars. Robinson gives a lot of thought to the topic of what the planet would actually look like to explorers standing on it from ground level. These sequences help set this book apart from other efforts where the planet is simply described as being red and rocky and left at that. When reading these descriptions, you can't help but share the belief of some of the characters that Mar's desolate terrain has its very own form of beauty. Of particular note are the landscapes during one character's voyage to the polar ice cap near the start of "Red Mars", and when a group of characters are navigating a dangerous canyon near the book's conclusion. Robinson also makes good use of the unique elements of geology and weather on Mars. For instance, when there's a gigantic dust storm on the planet, he gives convincing portrayals not just of the storm itself, but also of the depressing and claustrophobic effect that it has on the settlers when they aren't able to see more than a few feet when outdoors.
The story is told from the perspective of several different characters, each of them being the center of attention for about fifty pages. Some critics have complained about the quality of characterization in Robinson's books. It's definitely true that they don't have the same complexity as characters should have in true literature. However, they are satisfactory for telling the story that the author wants to tell. When two people have a discussion or argument in "Red Mars", it actually sounds genuine and convincing, and there are some interesting looks at how differences in policy and worldview affect the relationship between characters.
As a conclusion, let me say something in response to those reviewers who insist on judging the book by the author's politics rather than by the content of the book itself. "Red Mars" contains some amount of political and social commentary, although it occupies only a fairly small portion of the six hundred page work. For instance, there's a brief section where one character must resolve a dispute between business leaders and laborers who are upset about their living conditions on Mars. Well, this is just another example of what I mentioned earlier, which is that Robinson carefully considered every aspect of what conditions would be like for early settlers on another planet, and his explanation of the situation struck me as being very realistic. In Robinson's vision of the future, gigantic corporations work to undermine and supplant national governments on Earth as well as to control Mars; some have complained that this is unrealistic. But those of us who keep up with world events know that we're already starting to see the beginning of such a trend right now, so there''s nothing unreasonable about predicting that it will continue in the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The "Mars Series" is great for the teenage male in your life, March 28 2003
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
The three books in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars Trilogy" are my absolute all-time-favorites. He is truly gifted at writing about advanced science and technology and equally adept at creating "real" characters, because he understands psychology. This is a rare talent: to be scientifically knowledgable and a master at creating believable characters. The books are part action, part scientific explanation (like Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame), and part character development.
In "Red Mars" (the first in the series) Robinson paints a totally believable picture of what our future might be like as we get ready to explore and colonize Mars. Mega-corporations, earthly power struggles, and the selection process for determining who might get to be the first to go to Mars, are all very possible and Robinson crafts a story around these topics with ease.
In the second book, "Green Mars," Robinson portrays the struggle to get vegetation growing and to create a breathable atmosphere. He also describes more political struggles between those on Earth and those on Mars. This was probably my favorite of the three, but mainly because I am more interested in the science that would be needed in this phase of colonization.
In the third book, "Blue Mars," the planet become more Earth-like. The atmosphere is more developed, water travel becomes possible, and more. (I don't want to give it all away!)
The books can be kind of scholarly at times, but I was so impressed with these books that I gave them to my teenage brother. He was so impressed with them, that he gave them to one of his very best pals. And we all had a blast discussing them together. If there is a teenage male in your life -- or if you love sci-fi and have always wondered what it might be like to go to Mars -- then this trilogy is definitely for you. Very highly recommended!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of info, but writing could use some terraforming, March 12 2003
By 
Steve Jones (Stockbridge, GA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
The author's breadth of knowledge in science and political theory is impressive, to be sure. Years of research evidently went into this book. But often it seemed he was straining to showcase just how much he knows. The psychiatrist's long esoterica on human temperaments is a case in point -- dry as the Martian soil and entirely gratuitous. (Where was the editor with scissors?)
Initially, I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the topography and the explanations of how people built the first colony. Beyond the book's halfway point, I was saturated with it -- too much of a good thing. Getting through the last third of the book was a struggle (a coherent plot might have helped here). That disappointed me, because the beginning was engaging.
The characters turned out to be caricatures, not people. How many times could the ultra-grouchy Frank say "shut up" or "you idiot"? And Maya, the Russian beauty with the angst of a note-passing high school sophomore -- what space program let her in?? Then there was the flaky cult leader, and the rigid environmentalist ever flashing righteous scowls. It's an annoying, exaggerated cast of characters with only a few exceptions.
Also irritating was the insertion of the author's political dogmas, which revealed corporations and free-market types as predictably evil, bent on destroying the planet (just as they do on Earth, curse them all). The collectivists, of course, were the ones we were all supposed to cheer.
But OK, lots of it was interesting. The space elevator, terraforming ideas, survival on a hostile world. The author managed to stoke my imagination several times. He proved an able wordsmith, displaying flashes of brilliance at times. But the editors really let him down, I'm afraid. Several hundred pages needed to go and didn't.
Still, for those who like science and believable ideas about interplanetary travel, the book may be worth plodding through in your Martian rover.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise, but too much technical detail., March 1 2003
This review is from: Red Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
I found Red Mars to be a very slow read, but surprisingly enjoyable. The story, although bogged down with infinite technical detail (most of which wasn't properly explained), was at its heart a story about people - their hardships and triumphs, their emotions and their conflicts with one another.
I really disliked the overwhelming amount of technical detail. There was too much of it...most of the time it was hard to continue reading, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead. I also found it hard to like many of the characters. I had a couple of favorites, but that's about it. I didn't care what happened to the rest at all. At times, I found myself in awe of the way Robinson writes. He has a particular talent for describing things. Unfortunately, it's this same talent that often leads to long, drawn out descriptions that I often found to be unnecessary.
It's clear that the plot was very well thought out from the beginning. The idea of colonizing Mars is brought to life in such vivid detail, that's it's hard to come back to reality at times. The story line progressed nicely, although the time frame was somewhat confusing for me. I wasn't quite sure how many weeks/months/years had passed between chapters, or even sections of the same chapter.
Overall, not a bad book, and in fact, I plan on reading Green Mars and Blue Mars down the road... but after Red Mars, some light reading is in order.
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RED MARS
RED MARS by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hardcover - Jan. 1 1993)
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