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Thread: The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

    So I seem to be on a trilogy kick. Has anybody here read Red Mars, Green Mars, or Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson? Or for that matter has anyone here read any of Robinson’s books? I’ve read a couple: New York 2140 and Aurora.

    I’m roughly half way through the first book of the trilogy, Red Mars, and it only took me this long to figure out the titles of books are reference to Mars going from a dead planet (Red) to a living planet (Green) to an Earth-like planet (Blue). Mars is being colonized and terraformed by settlers from Earth in the not-too-distant future.

    It starts out like this:

    And so we came here. But what they didn’t realize was that by the time we got to Mars, we would be so changed by the voyage out that nothing we had been told to do mattered anymore. It wasn’t like submarining or settling the Wild West — it was an entirely new experience, and as the flight of the Ares went on, the Earth finally became so distant that it was nothing but a blue star among all the others, its voices so delayed that they seemed to come from a previous century. We were on our own; and so we became fundamentally different beings.
    Kim Stanley Robinson in the Mars Trilogy is not near the stylist that Cormack McCarthy is in the Border Trilogy, but yowza can he pack a bunch of information into his books. They’re big fat books but he doesn’t waste any space on fluff. They’re all packed with info. For me it took a while to get into his rhythm but now that I’m there I’m rocketing along smoothly.

    Anyway it’s been fun so far.

    Comments anybody?
    Uhhhh...

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Last edited by Danik 2016; 10-19-2021 at 02:31 PM.
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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, Sancho,

    I didn´t read them, but I seem to currently specialize in discussing books that I haven´t read. One of the important functions of a forum, is after all, to review literature. I discovered Kurt Vonnegut last year though and the impressions of "Slaughterhouse 5" must be buried somewhere in this forum.

    I believe the Mars Trilogy may be one of the many psychological preparations for a life outside the earth as so many sci-fi novels are today. It seems to be the same function as the travel literature in the Renaissance: it prepared the Europeans for all the discoveries and for a life outside Europe with treasures, monsters, cannibals, and what not.

    Quoting your quote:

    "It wasn’t like submarining or settling the Wild West — it was an entirely new experience, and as the flight of the Ares went on, the Earth finally became so distant that it was nothing but a blue star among all the others, its voices so delayed that they seemed to come from a previous century. We were on our own; and so we became fundamentally different beings."

    Is it all happening again?
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  4. #4
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Agreed, Danik. And I believe one of the best ways to make sense of literature is to talk about it with someone.

    That said I suppose I don’t bring much to the table with a science fiction book. I don’t read much sci-fi, not since high school anyway. Probably an avid reader of the genre would see more than I do. Oddly though, lately I’ve been getting into it more. Seems like it’s gotten more literary that it used to be (if there’s such a thing as that).

    Pew - Pew - Pew “Die you alien scum”

    ^ Not so much of that in this book. The book was written in ‘92 and the action starts in 2026. Theres initially a hundred or so highly trained, hand-picked colonists to go settle Mars - Astronauts, engineers, construction workers, chemists, biologists, geologists, horticulturists, scientists of all kinds, political people, a psychologist, and basically people with every skill set they think they’ll need. Earth is struggling with overpopulation. Shocker, huh? So anyway not only are they trying to make Mars a habitable planet, they’re also trying to set up a new society, and it becomes obvious the society will be unlike anything they’re used to back on earth. That’s what’s interesting to me.

    I’m not giving too much up here, but early on in the book there’s a murder. They are human after all, they’re Martians not Earthlings, but still human, I reckon.
    Uhhhh...

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I have no idea, Sancho, what our small bunch of Litnetters is reading these days. Any genre is welcome, I think. And I think, sci-fi permits related discussions. It seems significative anyway that more readers are becoming interested in it.

    What I think interesting about Slaughterhouse 5: the guy Billy has a terrible war experience while in Germany during WWII. He comes home, marries, has two kids, rises in his profession. He tries to lead a normal life, but he keeps traveling back and forward in time, visiting scenes of the past and the future. And at one time he is kidnapped by alliens, not to Mars but to some allien planet. And if I'm not inventing things, he even falls in love with an allien lady. What I liked about it is that there is an obvious connection between his war trauma and his feeling permanently dislodged in his after war existence.

    It would be fine if you could differentiate the three Mars books and write separately about each, as you did with the Cormack Trilogy. After all it is about our future!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    I love Slaughterhouse 5, the book, and the movie. It's a pretty realistic portrayal of the aftereffects of war. Kurt Vonnegut experience as a prisoner in Dresden- imagine surviving that!

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    It is sort of small bunch now, eh Danik? Way back in the day it was a quiet little corner of the web and then it got big and raucous and now it’s little again. So it goes on the lit-net.

    As you say. Billy Pilgrim had a terrible war experience and so did Kurt Vonnegut and so did the people of Dresden. Vonnegut writes about his war experience in what I think was his last book, A Man Without A Country. He was captured by the Germans in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to Dresden as a POW. During the allied bombing of Dresden his group of POWs was herded into an underground meat locker #5 for their protection, which is where the Slaughterhouse 5 title came from. He said they were all sitting there, listening to bombs explode, and thinking they probably wouldn’t survive the night. Then one of his buddies leaned over and said, “So what do you think the poor people are doing tonight?” Soldiers have always been good at gallows humor.

    You know Kurt Vonnegut’s people came from Germany. He grew up speaking the German and English. Since he knew the lingo he’d struck up a sort of friendship with one of the guards, a man he described as not too bright but good natured. After the bombing the prisoners were put on cleanup duty. They essentially were digging corpses out of the rubble and sending them to the morgue. Vonnegut had heard that the guard’s mother had been killed in the bombing. That might not be so good for the prisoners. He said at one point during the day the guard motioned to him to come over. The guard had one cigarette left. He broke it in two, offered one half to Vonnegut, and the two of them just sat there for a while and shared a smoke.
    Uhhhh...

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    You bet it is! LitNet must once have been great. People still keep coming back as in search of a lost Eden. I still remember my warm welcome in 2016, when it wasn´t so big anymore, but still a lot of people around. Anyway, even small it has retained it strong, independent presence.

    I see, you are both more intimate with Vonnegut, than me. When Stately brought the book to my attention, I made two mistakes: I thought the author was a German because of his name, and that the book was about the medieval Children Crusade.
    What I also like about the book, is the difficulty of the narrator in entering his subject.

    Beautiful scene that of companionship between "enemies" among so much destruction, Sancho!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  9. #9
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    The children’s crusade was sure a weird moment in history, proving again that truth is stranger than fiction. And although the sci-fi genre can certainly be strange it still hangs its hat on the human experience, sort of like Vonnegut hung his time-traveling protagonist on his own experience in the war.

    Red Mars is largely the story of colonization and there are certainly similarities to European colonization efforts of the past few centuries. But there’s also a keen awareness of environmental degradation on Mars mostly as a result of what’s already happened on Earth.

    So the colonists break into two factions, The Reds and The Greens. The Reds want to leave Mars as pristine as possible. They don’t believe humans have the right to muck around with another planet (even though they’re already there). They even start a Mars First! Movement, which sounds a lot like the the real-world Earth First! Movement that was borne directly out of Ed Abbey’s comic novel from the 70s - The Monkey Wrench Gang. The Greens want to terraform Mars, build an atmosphere, get plants growing, and basically make it habitable for humans.

    Here’s Ann, the de facto leader of the Reds. She’s talking about how the things happening on Mars are also having an effect back on Earth, in particular in this case on The Antarctic:


    They’re running out of oil down there, and the Southern Club is poor, and there’s a whole continent of oil and gas and minerals right next to them, being treated like a national park by the rich northern countries. And then the south started to see these same rich northern countries start to take Mars completely apart, and they said What the hell, you can tear a whole planet apart and we’re supposed to protect this iceberg we’ve got right next door with all these resources we desperately need? Forget it! So they broke The Antarctic Treaty, and there they are drilling and no one’s done a thing about it. And now the last clean place on earth is gone too.

    And here’s John responding to Ann. John is a charismatic political leader, a compromiser:

    Damn! Anyway, whenever I get discouraged about all this I try to remember that it’s all natural. It’s inevitable that people are going to fight, but now we’re fighting about Martian things. I mean people aren’t fighting over whether they’re American or Japanese or Russian or Arab, or some religion or race or sex or whatnot. They’re fighting because they want one Martian reality or other. That’s all that matters now. So we’re already halfway there.
    Also, welcome to the thread, Tony.
    Uhhhh...

  10. #10
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "And although the sci-fi genre can certainly be strange it still hangs its hat on the human experience, sort of like Vonnegut hung his time-traveling protagonist on his own experience in the war."
    I think, sci-fi is an eye opener ( I don´t know how far consciously) of the things happen today. They sort of want to map out the future of humanity. Maybe that´s why the genre is so popular. It offers a kind of future, however bad things may be around.

    But I have the feeling that the earthen conflicts are only transferred to Mars in the novel:

    It seems that if they leave Mars as it is, they won´t be able to live on it.
    And if they terraform Mars, they will soon make it not inhabitable again.
    I wonder how soon the conflict between rich and poor countries will be transferred to Mars.

    There is another sci-fi trilogy about the future of the world but still on earth that seems interesting to me. It´s Margareth Atwood´s MaddAddam Trilogy. I had only courage to read the first volume, Orix and Crake. But maybe one of you or both have read it?
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I haven’t read MaddAddam. In fact I haven’t read anything by Margaret Atwood, but she’s on the list. I have read several story collections by her fellow Canadian, Alice Munro, and they are awesome.

    Well the rich/poor country contention does come into it somewhat, but in the form of transnational companies going to Mars to strip out the natural resources and send them back to Earth. Much as international maritime operations pick a small country with an advantageous tax structure to register ships under, the Transnats on Mars are working under a “flag of convenience.” And since there is no government on Mars to speak of, the Transnats bring their own police forces and pretty much do as they please. I’ve been to countries where the police aren’t really there for public safety but rather to protect some very specific interests. They’re more like private security. In any given situation they could be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on who’s paying them. Black folks in certain cities here in the USA are thinking - shiiiiiit you ain’t gotta go to no other country to find cops like that.

    Anyway once profit is the main motive, everything changes, even the priority of the engineering projects on Mars. Here’s a note on Robinson’s style. It’s a wordy, sort of matter-of-fact style, which is weird considering the fantastical things he’s writing about. So I’ll be reading along on autopilot, considering the actions and inner thoughts of some of the main characters, and then I’ll stop cold and go - a whaaat? A space elevator!? Turns out a space elevator is a real theory that’s been around for quite some time. And they wind up building one to make it cheaper and easier to get people to Mars and resources out of Mars. It goes like this: they boost an asteroid into a geostationary orbit and then they run a cable from the asteroid to the surface of the planet and now they can run an elevator car up and down the cable. Metallurgy has clearly come a long way.
    Uhhhh...

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I like the short stories of Alice Munro a lot. From an artistic point of view I think that she is even a greater author than Atwood, but Atwood has these original and disturbing futuristic plots and I dare say, she researched a lot to construct them. She published The Handmaid´s Tale long before woman´s rights had that public relevance it has today.

    "Well the rich/poor country contention does come into it somewhat, but in the form of transnational companies going to Mars to strip out the natural resources and send them back to Earth." That seems very typical to me. Your author was very informed about tax rules. Transnats indeed.

    "And since there is no government on Mars to speak of, the Transnats bring their own police forces and pretty much do as they please. I’ve been to countries where the police aren’t really there for public safety but rather to protect some very specific interests. They’re more like private security. In any given situation they could be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on who’s paying them." This Mars sounds very earthy indeed. Only the address has changed.

    "A space elevator!? Turns out a space elevator is a real theory that’s been around for quite some time. And they wind up building one to make it cheaper and easier to get people to Mars and resources out of Mars. It goes like this: they boost an asteroid into a geostationary orbit and then they run a cable from the asteroid to the surface of the planet and now they can run an elevator car up and down the cable. Metallurgy has clearly come a long way."
    Doesn´t sound at all practical to me. Any reach people will want to have their own or several interplanetary private cable elevators, when it comes to that, as they have imported cars today. Now imagine the confusion of cables all over the cosmos, the elevators jams, the accidents with people been expelled into the all. Better some flying vehicle that might better adapt to the circumstances.

    Waiting for more news about Mars!
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 10-27-2021 at 08:39 AM.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    If I had to pick the Alice Munro story with the most hang time in my noggin, it’d be Child’s Play in the Too Much Happiness collection. I can still vividly picture the special-ed girl with the pale-blue flowered cap smiling and swimming out to meet the two mean girls. The story is told from the perspective of one of the mean girls who is now an old woman. Yeeech!

    ***Spoiler Alert***

    The space elevator isn’t an interplanetary vehicle, it just allows for ease of transport from Mars orbit to the surface. But you’re absolutely right about it being problematic. However rather than the car getting stuck and stranding everybody on it, the elevator winds up being the target of sabotage. You see the humans on Mars find themselves in a civil war. They are human after all and war is one of those things that humans gonna do. So the one side cuts the cable and sends counterweight asteroid along with Phyllis and a bunch of folks from the other side hurdling out into space. So long Phyllis you evil space b**ch.

    Anyway I’m now about a third of the way through Green Mars and although you wouldn’t think they would, they wind up building another elevator. And reports have it that Phyllis isn’t dead and she’s on her way back and she’s probably pretty pissed off.

    Something happened to the writing style between Red Mars and Green Mars. I’m finding Green Mars to be much easier to read. Maybe I’m just less distracted. One of the themes seems to be - what is, just is, there’s no deserve. What happens, just happens, regardless of what should happen. It doesn’t matter what you do, when death comes for you - you gonna die.

    Ann, one of the original 100, is out by herself doing geological work and considering this idea. She’s thinking of how many of her friends have died and wondering why she’s still alive. She starts considering Dostoyevsky and time the Czarist police had taken him out to be executed only to be brought back hours later to wait his turn:

    Dostoyevsky had been changed for life, the writer declared in the easy omniscience of biography. An epileptic, prone to violence, prone to despair. He hadn’t been able to integrate the experience. Perpetually angry. Fearful. Possessed.

    Ann shook her head and laughed, angry at the idiot writer, who simply didn’t understand. Of course you didn’t integrate the experience. It was meaningless. The experience that couldn’t be integrated.
    Uhhhh...

  14. #14
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "If I had to pick the Alice Munro story with the most hang time in my noggin, it’d be Child’s Play in the Too Much Happiness collection. I can still vividly picture the special-ed girl with the pale-blue flowered cap smiling and swimming out to meet the two mean girls. The story is told from the perspective of one of the mean girls who is now an old woman. Yeeech!"
    Yes, I know exactly which story you mean! It´s terrible.

    Vixe! Seems again that those Mars humans aren´t different from their earthy relatives. The good thing about fantastic fiction and soap operas is that only the author decides who dies. Any logic goes to space as we say here! I wonder if Phillys is going to revenge herself.

    "Something happened to the writing style between Red Mars and Green Mars. I’m finding Green Mars to be much easier to read." Maybe another person wrote the second novel under the same name. They may have a bureau of authors. Funny things happen. In Spain, a certain Carmen XXX won a prize for a certain gorish serie, which is very popular there. At the award ceremony, instead of the expected lady, three men turned up to receive the prize.

    "Ann shook her head and laughed, angry at the idiot writer, who simply didn’t understand." Now Ann, please more respect with my beloved Dostoyevsky. I can tell you he integrated quite a lot of things.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Oh Phyllis most definitely is out for revenge, but it’s up in the air as to whether or not she gets it. Phyllis, you see, is one of the original 100 and she has aligned herself with the Transnats, which puts her in a powerful position on Mars but estranges her from the other remaining first 100 settlers.

    A new character in Green Mars (and a fairly compelling one) is Art Randolph. He’s an amiable middle-aged man who’s been sent to Mars to make friends and influence people and ultimately figure out how to buy Mars outright for William Fort, the founder and majority owner of the powerful Transnat - Praxis. William Fort Isn’t presented as an evil industrialist, but rather as a brilliant and eccentric guh-zillionaire along the lines of Howard Hughes. We could probably update his description to a Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk-type character. Fort has determined that stripping Mars of its natural resources is a fool’s play. The real value of Mars is as a fully terraformed planet that can accept people from Earth, which has become unsustainably overpopulated. Smart guy, eh? We’ll see where it goes.

    Anyhoo, Danik, don’t feel too bad about Ann savaging your beloved Fedor Dostoyevsky. She’s a sympathetic yet difficult-to-like character (for the reader as well as the other characters). Robinson describes her as an older, more severe version of the farmer’s wife in Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic:

    https://www.artic.edu/artworks/6565/american-gothic

    Also I think he’s having a little fun with us there. Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, Prince Myshkin is a very likable character and not an idiot at all, but rather a good natured, guileless man. I’m not sure what will happen to Ann, but I’m sorta pulling for her, even if she’s the kind of person I avoid at a cocktail party - “uhhh, pardon me, sister, and sorry to interrupt your long-winded rant, but I gotta go see guy about a horse.”
    Uhhhh...

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