I just finished Red Mars this past week and quite enjoyed it. Im chugging along with it’s sequel Green Mars right now.
I tried to get into it once or twice when I was much younger. It’s not exactly a light read though and I didn’t get traction with it. It’s an It is intensely political, spiritual and ecological with an utter commitment to hard scifi. It’s been quite a joy.
It covers quite a long span of time. Covering the two years selecting initial colonists for Mars and their flight there, till 50 years post colonization. In that vein their is an emotional echo to me from some of Arthur C Clarke’s Rama novels. Where you get to know a small cast of people across vast spans of time intimitately.
The 100 initial colonists are international, and while all scientists come from a variety of religious and political background. Mars very quickly is a cauldron of philosophys and idealogies. Many of which echo earth’s conflicts. While some are desperately trying to invent something new.
It’s also interesting to watch the book’s cast explore the notion of what ecology even means in an utter hostile alien environment.
I don’t know if I like some of the characterizations. I wrestle a bit with how one of the female protagonists was portrayed. There were times where I thought she was painted unfavorably in an undeserving way, but now that ive finished the book its left me feeling a bit more nuanced.
Later in the book as more colonists arrive, I thought some of the portrayals of Islamic communities lacked a little bit of imagination, but in a way that is much more easier for me to spot than from the book’s 1992 vantage point.
The book is also very heteronormative. I tricked myself at one point into thinking two female protagonists were about to confess love to one another while watching a martian sunset. But it was entirely me reading something which was not there. But again an easy flaw for the book to fall into from the year of 1992. And somethign I am aware the author is pretty cognisant of in his newer books.
I also very much would like to know if some of the book’s martian strains of Sufism have any basis in reality; and might have to reread those bits later to look for clues on what they might map to here in the real world.
The book is absolutely fabulous despite these points. It has a lot to say on the subject of class, science, evology, capitalism and the human condition in general. The research and level of detail about mars and the science therein is also fantastically realistic and meticulously researched. Though a bit dated as some of our data has become more refined in the intervening decade.