Archive for December 30th, 2010

Kim Stanley Robinson – Blue Mars

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

It has taken some times, but I have finally finished Blue Mars (1996), the final volume of the Mars-Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. I had read the first two books quite some years ago, but for some weird reason the third book never got translated so I picked up the English version. As the book proved to be not an easy or very entertaining read I put it on my travellist: books I use for long traveling. Even so, I did not progress very fast, partially because I don’t always read while traveling and I did not travel that much the past half year.

In my introduction I already stated two negative points about the book. I did remember enjoying the first two books so before I got to writing this review I picked up the first book again and read a bit so I would be able to compare it better.

The first thing I mentioned was the easiness of the book. The Mars-Trilogy has gained a lot of critical acclaim and this is mainly because of the well envisioned and scientific description of the colonization and terraformation of Mars. The science and technical writing in the third book is quite more extensive than before. Such parts are quite hard for any reader not into the topic. One might learn something from it, but the problem remains that it is not very accessible. During the book Robinson covers a range of topics related to the colonization and the terraformation but he does not manage to present it within a frame of story that keeps the attention of the reader. I could best call it info-dumping, which is always a nasty thing. The narrative is often descriptive while info-dumping is easier to swallow in a dialogue.

The first two books also had descriptive narratives but there was still plenty of dialogue and character interaction. The third book lacks this a lot. It is a long book and dialogue makes things much more livelier.

This brings me also to the point of entertainment. The book covers a long period of time in which mostly minor things happen. The beginning starts exciting, but it quickly swamps down in a description of mostly peaceful solutions to problems and developments. In most of the book hardly anything really exciting happens. Some parts are interesting but mostly because we follow certain characters and the life they develop. Even these are not very exciting but the more personal view and more detailed developments are a nicer read.

Blue Mars advocates a peaceful and diplomatic continuation of events where humanity reaches a new stage in its evolution. In a away it reminds me of The Foundation by Isaac Asimov, which stories also lack real conflict and have peaceful resolutions, but where human interactions still formed the core. However, this part is lacking in Blue Mars. Most characters remain rather dull and the few that are not we don’t really get to, don’t stick with or just don’t do much that really has effect.

Blue Mars mainly brings conclusion to the events of the earlier books, but despite the beginning never sets off. One will read it to find out how it will all end up, but there is little of the entertainment of the previous books. I will not particularly recommend it. In its way it’s a good book, but the approach is far too scientific and unpersonal to make an impact.