on March 15, 2001
Due to the hype, I bought--stupid stupid stupid!--all three of the books in this trilogy. I did finish the book, although I am not sure how I did it. Here's the storyline: Describe the landscape for 20 pages, describe in INTRICATE DETAIL what all the little widgets and gadgets that the colonists brought with them are, talk about the beautiful scenery some more, have sex, some more technical stuff, make a failing attempt to develop the characters, have sex again, etc. The back of the book talks about how the last hundred pages go at the speed of light. Sorry, but I didn't find the ending memorable at all. Then there's this hard-to-visualize part where they have an LONG elevator or something attached to one of Mars' moons. I felt like I was reading Pecos Bill and how he would lasso a tornado with his rope, only this time he's doing to a moon. Highly over-rated. See that bright red dot outside your window? I suggest you take your copy of Red Mars and throw it out the window in an attempt to knock the red planet out of the sky. No aliens, either. This book makes A Princess of Mars look good.
on November 20, 2000
I may be going against the tide of opinion here, but I feel very strongly on the subject. A few years back I began to read this award winning book. That I still remember the experience so vividly should say something. I'm a major sci-fi fantasy reader and this looked to be a good read. Whenever I start a new author, I usually allow myself at least 100 pages to get into the book and get a taste of the style. I could barely do it. I ended up reading almost 200 pages straight in, over the course of a few weeks. Mind you, 200 pages normally takes me about 2-3 hours. In those 200 pages, I saw no coherent plot developing, no characters seemed to stick around long enough to follow, and I couldn't sense any overall theme (other than mars being colonized, but that was mere backdrop, it could have been anywhere and didn't seem to bear on the story). I found myself avoiding reading more in this book. I would do anything, housework, laundry, go for walks in the pouring rain, to avoid more reading in this book. In desperation, I began to flip through the book to find anything that would entice me to read further. No luck. So, yes, the truth is that I never managed to read the entire book cover to cover. I tried and failed, although I felt like I would die of boredom. I do hope to some day try to re-read the book (the other reviews lead me to believe I missed something), but I cannot stand the idea just yet. I cannot in good conscience suggest this title to anyone.
on February 27, 2000
The geology and some of the descriptions are great. But beyond that, KSR fails to give what I would consider a "satisfying reader experience." The characters are all pointed in one direction or another, and none of them ever seem to learn anything, to grow in any way. None of them ever seem to touch one another (although some of them get resigned to this state, it would be better to make contact). Nor do they touch the reader. I expected Chalmers to show some remorse for the murder, or for his friends to be horrified by his deed -- although perhaps I missed it, as admittedly my eyes were fairly glazed over during part of the experience.
The revolution is described as "all revolutions" and is as empty as any of the characters. Finally, some of the first hundred find refuge -- so they can start their meaningless journey again, I suppose. Maybe now they will have learned to get along with each other.
Finally, KSR's views on politics and economics -- so one-sided! He makes a few good points, but because of the heavy-handedness and lack of objectivity I soon became irritated rather than persuaded.
KSR had the potential for a good story. The background was interesting, his research evident. But, even if you want to show chaos in humanity and the lack of people to reach each other, you should not write a book where the motives are so chaotic and you fail to touch the reader. I can't believe this book won awards.
on December 13, 1999
I should have read more of the reviews before buying this book. Even most people who give it 5 stars say that it is boring in parts. The only reason I gave this a single star was because the first 100 pages or so were kind of interesting and held some promise, but Robinson definitely does not deliver.
The characters are about as deep as they would be if this were a new MTV show called The Real World: Mars -- Frank, the angry one; Maya, the hot one; John, the charismatic one; Arkady, the guy with the red beard. They have NO depth whatsoever. Even though this story takes place over the course of several decades, not a single one of them grows as a human being -- they all remain exactly the same.
It's true that the book is intelligent and well-researched, but as fiction it stinks. If you want to learn about the colonization of Mars, read a science book.
If this is the kind of thing the Science Fiction Writers of America and their fans praise with awards, then SF is truly a dead genre.
on December 10, 1999
Due to all the critical acclaim, I was eager to read the trilogy that commences with this book. In short, I was very disappointed. The author brilliantly describes a barren planet and the effort to terraform it. Thus I give it one star. For me the story line is terribly weak. Once the murder is disclosed, the author never delves into the motivation of the key protagonist and his vision for the planet Mars. Rather the author shifts from one character to another devoting long sections where the characters indulge their own petty neuroses. Two final points. First, the rebels who set about causing the downfall of the colonization of Mars are never fully revealed in person or motivation other than in their efforts to stop the colonization of the planet and second, a mysterious character is revealed farily early on in the book who is referred to as the coyote. This character is never developed although one is given the impression that he is responsible for much that goes on behind the scenes with the rebels. This was a major disappointment to me. This may novel may be a marvel of technology and vision but it left me wondering what the hype was all about. I, for one, will not be reading the sequeals to Red Mars.
on August 21, 1999
I really don't understand how this book won the Nebula and Green Mars won the Hugo. I thought the book was very poorly written. Sci-Fi authors are not known for their writing ability, but KSR's work is some of the worst I have ever seen. The characters are some of the most unbelievable, flat, cliched and irrating people I've ever found in print. Not to mention the book seems to have no direction whatsover. The narrative lacks any semblance of continuity.
A lot of the other reviewers have complained about the politics which seem to be the true focus of the book. I don't mind them in and of themselves. What is annoying is the delivery. I'm sure a lot of the positive reviews are from readers sharing KSR's political philosphy; but the politics of Red Mars are very difficult to believe. The situations he contrives to justify the political climate of Red Mars stick out as just that: contrived.
I actually found the exceedingly long terrain descriptions kind of interesting, but the book does move very slowly. The "science" was interesting and sounded very good, if not entirely realistic. But I can't think of any sci-fi novel that is.
In summary, the plot is boring. The characters are boring, irritating, and one dimensional (what the hell were the reviewers who raved about great character development smoking????). The politics are lame. The science is interesting. The premise, sadly, is fascinating. And the book is extremely boring. Don't waste your time with it unless your stuck on an airplane with nothing else to read.
Red Mars probably deserves 3 stars, but I rated it a 1 due to the expectations associated with any Nebula winner -- this is the worst Nebula/Hugo winning book I've ever read.
on March 29, 1999
I can't believe that this is the same book that has been hyped since 1993. It doesn't even begin to live up to its press releases.
1) The plot - B -you aren't sure what it is until about page 400. Even then, its not good enough to justify 579 boring pages. It could have been done better in 300.
2) The writing - D-minus - just horrible. Robertson spends pages and pages detailing stuff that is difficult to follow and pretty much irrelevant to the plot. He can't decide whether this is a treatise on human behavior or a hard sci-fi story and as a result it is neither. Also, there are so many geographical locations named as to be utterly confusing and distracting to his point (assuming he had one).
3) The characters - F - why anyone should want to read so much about one dimensional jerks is pretty much beyond me. Who selected these people to settle Mars? Helen Keller is my guess.
4) The Sci-fi - B+ Decent concepts that are well thought out and fairly accurrate, but they don't carry the book.
Its a shame. I should have liked this book. Its a sci-fi political novel (exactly my type) but in trying to do everything, it accomplishes nothing. I could barely finish it and when I did, I was sorry I bothered. I can't believe this drivel won a hugo.
on December 5, 1998
Robinson seems to revel in pointing out his knowledge of useless trivia in all fields. While this might let you win on Jeopardy, it doesn't make for a good book. Nor do simplistic characters make for a good book - we have little reason to feel for any of them and motive is visibly lacking. The main motive, as other reviewers point out, seems to be to further KSR's political beliefs. I didn't see too much of a Communist tinge here but I saw plenty of one-sided political-religious discussion. The idea that Islam is perfect (except for its treatment of women, alleviated by Islamic female characters otherwise loyal to the religion but seeking an egalitarian approach) and that any other religious people are nutty fundamentalists is widespread. Worse than the useless trivia, poor characterization and political ranting though is the unexcusable sin of a write - it wasn't interesting to read. Give us all your views, your useless knowledge and bad characters, but give us a good book at least. Robinson fails to do even this, and as a result I have no other option than to give his book only one star.
on September 28, 1997
I picked up this book on a whim, and it nearly became the first book in my life that I did not finish. It starts out well enough, with a sneakily planned murder...but then just when you're about to get hooked, the book turns out to be one big flashback leading up to the murder. Huh? Suspense is created and then pulled out from under the reader like a rug, leaving nothing but utter boredom reading about the colonists themselves being bored on a space voyage out to Mars. The book becomes all science and no story (and I'm an engineer, mind you), and the author tries to generate excitement by having characters engaging in inexpicable activities - just why is it that everyone starts wrecking the place? To make it a better world? THIS MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Some colonists start hiding from other colonists...to do research on their own? What? The governments who funded the mission have essentially no say on how the place is run? Excuse me? The relationships between characters is apparently based on those that one has or had in the sixth grade. Whining characters, unexplained motivations, mass destruction just for the sake of mass destruction...this book is a mess.
on April 11, 2000
If you are looking for an action packed thriller, look somewhere else. In the first 25 pages a main character is killed -- BUT then the next 250 pages trace -- in laborious, almost mind-numbing detail -- the preparations for the Mars trek, the flight itself, the setting-up of the base, opening containers of supplies and descriptions of what was in them, the step-by-step construction of buildings, the Martian landscapes, etc. This is interspersed with lectures on psychology, politics, philosophy, and various other topics. Then in the last 200 pages the population builds up on Mars, a war occurs destroying everything, and the scenes are all described in long, extreme detail. If you are a geologist, or are trying to paint scenes of Mars and need detailed descriptions, then this book's for you. If you want a fast-paced (or even medium-paced) story, you'll be disappointed.