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The red planet is red no longer, as Mars has become a perfectly inhabitable world. But while Mars flourishes, Earth is threatened by overpopulation and ecological disaster. Soon people look to Mars as a refuge, initiating a possible interplanetary conflict, as well as political strife between the Reds, who wish to preserve the planet in its desert state, and the Green "terraformers". The ultimate fate of Earth, as well as the possibility of new explorations into the solar system, stand in the balance

768 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Kim Stanley Robinson

257 books6,303 followers
Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer, probably best known for his award-winning Mars trilogy.

His work delves into ecological and sociological themes regularly, and many of his novels appear to be the direct result of his own scientific fascinations, such as the 15 years of research and lifelong fascination with Mars which culminated in his most famous work. He has, due to his fascination with Mars, become a member of the Mars Society.

Robinson's work has been labeled by reviewers as "literary science fiction".

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,049 reviews
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,242 followers
March 31, 2022
An independent Mars but not a peaceful one Blue Mars, blue skies, a great stormy, huge Martian North Sea of the same color turning salty, fish swimming below, birds flying above animals roaming around the land, majestic trees growing on beautiful lush hills, sparkling rivers gently flowing by, magnificent green vegetation everywhere on shore, dark clouds that cause showers to pour down, howling winds over 150 miles a hour, making powerful waves crash on pretty little fishing villages and resorts, gorgeous beaches full of Martians playing, boats tossed high in the breathable air, dazzling islands in the Sun the mythical great canal built here, towering mountains twice the size of Everest, though a large luminous moon is missed , curious tourists from distant Earth arrive yes a paradise if no people lived on the 4th planet. The struggle always continues between crippled, crowded, desperate, over populated Earth and an almost empty Mars. Terra needs to send millions or billions to the former red planet. Nevertheless the Martian government resists this treaty or no treaty in the 23rd century, pressure from their population both native and immigrant, who believe that already enough millions are there, and the fanatical Reds still actively blowing up things they feel are hurting their world, but you can not return to the pristine deserts, with a toxic thin atmosphere, blinding, choking, dust storms that last years, and circled the globe, brutal bone-chilling sub zero temperatures of past days, ( no more pink skies) only read or see ancient pictures about them. After the second revolution succeeded, the reds tried to destroy the invaluable, ingenious space elevator controlled by Earth still a threat but the green government stopped it in a brief civil war, yet very destructive one ... The first hundred ( 101, in fact, there was a stowaway, Coyote) are fewer, even with the Treatment less than twenty now, living to a ridicules age over 220, some older but their minds are going, a new drug is needed or Sax, Maya, Ann, Michel , Coyote, etc., will be no more sudden deaths will wipe them out . Nevertheless how can you relate to natives that are seven feet tall, and think you are a museum piece from a history book (they still exist ) ? And what about Hiroko . Is the great, enigmatic biologist who could grow anything on the formerly desolate surface here, alive ? Sightings from Earth to every part of Blue Mars are constantly reported, she has vanished either killed in the rebellion against the UN or hiding with her followers, the mystery has become a sort of joke...The Solar System is being inhabited everywhere from steamy Mercury, cloudy Venus (in the future) to deep inside small asteroids weirdly shaped, to the frigid moons of Uranus ... Neptune and Pluto are next and they will not stop there, crossing to the nearest stars with Goldilocks planets (not too hot, not too cold, just right), new technology is opening up the heavens, limits are falling the human race feels that they can do anything and solve every problem, overcome all Manifest Destiny in Outer Space. The Universe will be conquered humanity needs elbow room ...The last of this great but flawed series, maybe a little too optimistic in its forecasts in building a new Earth away from all the old troubles on our present planet, the hates will never stop as humans carry them inside their hearts and minds , still we can yearn for a better society...or not even try which will doom us.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,947 reviews3,405 followers
May 29, 2018
This book is the hardest to rate of all three in the trilogy. Why? Because it's also the best in the trilogy.

Let's start at the beginning:
The final volume picks up shortly after the end of the second. There is another revolution, this one slightly more successful thanks to Earth being flooded with problems (see what I did there? ;P). However, violent outbursts such as the Reds firing missiles at the new elevator are thwarted. A delicate balance is established that, through the course of the book, allows an equally delicate independent government to be erected on Mars and causing the third and final revolution to be rather peaceful. This leads to the contemplation of some interesting (and some rather ridiculous) concepts regarding politics, government and judicial systems.
Moreover, the terraforming efforts on Mars have progressed and still are progressing more and more, leading to liquid water on the formerly red planet (it's warm enough now). Plants grow, animals get introduced (and thrive somewhat), there is farming and more. We get to see nature unfold and with it new technological advances and opportunities for a peace with Earth (as Mars feeds large chunks of the population). This success also has another effect: asteroids and other planets get terraformed as well, which means that humanity has more opportunity to spread out (relaxing the political/military tensions between Earth and Mars) and we get to use everything in our solar system (including metals from other planets).
This leads me to the technology angle: the author always made sure to present development on the small(er) scale, such as the bird suits so people on Mars could actually fly, as well as the large scale, such as the mining efforts on Mercury or the new ship drives that make interstellar travel relatively fast and easy. Really cool how one thing led to the next.
And medicine. A very important topic since health-care is an export from Mars and doesn't just consist of the longevity treatment but much more (up to and including genetic alterations in humans if they want to be more catty for example).

All of the above had an incredible scale, making this book dense but also enormously interesting to read and I have no problem believing that no other author has ever done that (or only very few others have).

However, the negative followed suit almost immediately. Again in the form of the people the author chose to populate his worlds with.
I don't know if the author is this whacky himself, if he thought whacky would be what people turned out to be if they lived for over 200 years with such accomplishments or if he's just bad at characterisations but boy, was I annoyed once again!
Many of the original 100 are dead and more are dying in here (some of nothing more than old age) but the remaining ones as well as some of their children (Jacky) and grand-children (Zoe) are at least as enragingly stupid/bitchy/annoying and it marred my enjoyment. From further sexual encounters () to their supposed intelligence while displaying an astonishing amount of stupidity, I just wanted the book to be over at many points because of them!
Also, I don't find it in the least bit realistic that . I actually went back to the first book to check and so that felt forced, as if the author simply added it to make (one of) them more likeable or to explore another angle.
He did that a lot: throwing his characters into situations to explore a subject. In general, that's not a bad thing but it usually turned out to be problematic here and it usually had to do with his characters. So frustrating!

We also, once again, had at least one scene where I wasn't sure the author hadn't taken too many drugs before sitting down and writing that part of the book (hint: Dalai Lama) and stuff like that throws me off as well. However, the overall writing style was good.

But back to the scope:
It was great to see the planet progress from dead red rock to thriving green and blue world and how the political situation progressed towards independence with people trying NOT to repeat the mistakes they made back on Earth while also not allowing to become doormats. It was a bit unrealistic in the end how they solved the political mess regarding the mass-emmigration from Earth (too much like all coming to their senses, holding hands and singing together for my taste - especially considering how it escalated in the past), but considering the technological advances, I didn't care too much because there is a solution there ().

But how to rate such a magnum opus???
On one hand, we have the abysmally bad characterisations and free-love-between-all bullshit, not to mention the drugs, that all made me want to not finish the trilogy even (yep, that means it wasn't a case of "love to hate" anyone, but of me contemplating DNFing the series).
On the other hand, we have an author who clearly thought this whole thing through from start to finish before writing this trilogy and who therefore managed to think of almost everything. By the way: I went and checked with some colleagues of mine (biologists, chemists and even a physicist) and can say that the science in these books is sound (the physicist could only confirm the general ideas, we didn't go too much into detail, doing all the maths and such, I just wanted to know about the validity of the basic stuff).
This goes for botany (how plants grow, in which stages, what can threaten harvests etc) as well as the evolutionary process and chemical reactions theoretically necessary / working regarding the terraforming effort. The engineering bits were also accurate (except for the bird suit, maybe, there is no way to be sure). Ok, the DNA stuff was a little out there but considering the tweaking that already is possible nowadays and how the people in these books didn't have legal restrictions on Mars ... who knows?!
So yeah, this trilogy has an insane scale and amount of details, all written and presented well / fairly realistically, with the exception of the people with whom the reader gets to experience over 200 years of Martian / human history.
Oh, and he didn't shy away from also throwing in art, etymology, religion, psychology and philosophy. The latter three, often, drifted into the whacky and stupid (pretentious pseudo-nonsense, usually because of the characters) but including it means that he thought of those factors influencing people and therefore scientific / sociological advances as well.

So after long contemplation I have come to the decision that this installment deserves full marks.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,977 followers
May 26, 2018
The first two novels in the Mars trilogy were pretty much a tight mix of colonization, politics, SO MUCH GREAT SCIENCE, and fairly interesting characterizations pretty much designed to carry the sprawling expanse of what MARS is more than anything else.

Let's put it this way, and careful, because here comes a spoiler, but...

Mars is the main character. :)

The third novel has relatively little action in it, but that's okay.

There's a new constitution being hammered out for the fascinating experimental political parts, new customs as both time and the planet changes radically with the terraforming, and the influence Mars has on a massively overpopulated Earth being driven crazy by the new life-prolonging treatments. (Designed and exported from Mars.)

I squealed like a little fanboy with the endless wordcount of the science, from the physics of brain chemistry at the quantum level to the terraforming of Mercury and Venus and some of the bigger moons out by the gassy ones. :)

What COULD be considered a negative to the novel was actually its biggest strength. Let me explain...

This is about old people. Senescence. You could take it as a metaphor if you like, Old Blue Earth vs New Mars, memories versus living in the present, or even White versus Red thinking (It's a Thing).

It's also about synthesis. As in alchemy. Mars is both its pristine red past and its new living, ocean-filled, green, boat laden glory. So are we. We're our memories, our hopes for the future, be it science, children, or ourselves, AND we are our present. Live your life, quick, the promise of immortality is an illusion. :)

I will never call this novel a great one in terms of plot or characters, though I really grew to love Sax and Ann, our embodiments of White and Red thinking, by the end. Everyone else, nascent gods supplanting their titan parents, were amusing and fascinating, but in the end, unnecessary... EXCEPT for the character of world-building, science, the collective unconscious, the zeitgeist, the evolving thought, and the evolving planet.

It's a sprawling jazz-filled explosion of life and erosion of time, water, and memory.

At least, that's how I see it. :)

If this novel had been presented today as a Hugo winner, I probably would have declined to nominate it, but for the time this won in '97, as well as the other two Mars novels, it was a revelation.

Most other SF is weaksauce compared to the science and exploration of science in these novels. Truth is truth. All this glorious science doesn't always make for a good STORY, but the story was good enough to showcase a polymath brilliance spanning ethics, psychology, politics, terraforming, biology, quantum physics, and even the meaning of life.

Profile Image for William.
16 reviews
March 14, 2013
This review of Blue Mars is in fact a review of the entire trilogy, since it's one continuous story -- one that altogether weighs in at something around 2,300 pages. I've been living on Mars for the last 3 months and wish that, if it were possible, I could actually live there, at least the Mars portrayed in these books. It's certainly not a series for everybody -- all those lots of pages are filled with lots of science, lots of politics and political theory, and lots of philosophy.

However, for such a long work, the story line is fairly straightforward. 100 super-scientists journey to Mars, establish a colony, and while they gradually terraform it, other "Terrans" settle it, fleeing an over-populated and rapidly declining Earth. The books describe the struggle of the "Martians" (Robinson's clever inversion -- those humans living on Mars become Martians) to transform Mars into a habitable world, a struggle that takes place in two dimensions: the scientific problem of turning barren, cold Mars into a new Earth, and the human problem of creating a workable society freed from the toxic ways of life still found on Earth. In this way, Robinson weaves together the old utopian impulses of science fiction with a kind of "hard science" style of sci fi that I've not seen in quite a while.

Utopian fiction: Robinson knows his sci fi, and this trilogy in many places reminded me of a massively inflated version of LeGuin's classic The Dispossessed. The two worlds of Urras and Anarres are replaced by Mars and Earth, respectively. Just as Urras was cold and relatively desolate, compared to the superabundance of life on Anarres, Mars begins as a totally uninhabitable place, while Earth (to which the narrative moves twice) remains, even in its decadent state, almost inhospitably alive. LeGuin's novel famously created the genre of the "ambiguous" or "critical" utopia, and the Mars Trilogy follows out this idea. In passing from Earth to Mars, the first hundred decide that they are not beholden to their original mission, and that they have the opportunity finally to create a better form of human living, but like LeGuin's anarchist utopia, even a better form of human living is subject to the human frailties of fractured relationships, power, conformity, and xenophobia, so that the reader is treated to multiple revolutions as the colonists struggle to realize a new form of living. The first of these revolutions, in Red Mars (book 1) is a stunning page turner, the lengthy description of the fall of the elevator cable being one of the best moments in that book. Without spoiling too much, the second revolution in Green Mars (book 2) is almost as gripping, and more philosophically interesting, and sets the stage for the slower and more meditative Blue Mars (book 3), in which Robinson takes delight in exploring numerous post-revolutionary forms life: communal, neo-tribal, etc. The trilogy leans unapologetically to the left and toward environmentalism, although Robinson shares the old-school Marxist faith in technology as a solution to many problems.

Science: Robinson is fairly obsessed with Mars, and any of my friends who decide to read this should use the specially constructed Google Maps for this trilogy (thanks, Dennis, Boccippio!) to follow the narrative -- there are many long travelogues in the narrative. Geology (technically, areology), biology, astronomy, psychology, physics, all get long discussions. If you're not a scientist, or don't find science interesting, you might zone out, but Robinson manages two remarkable feats: first, he folds the science into the narrative well, so that it becomes a part of the actual story, and he frequently uses the science as a metaphor for what's happening politically or personally with the characters. Second, he's about the best popular science writer around: he explains even the most technical scientific ideas with clarity and verve. Having just finished the book, I think know the geography (areology) of Mars better than that of Earth.

Philosophy: Robinson wrote a doctoral thesis on Philip K. Dick. Although his style reflects little of that great writer, he certainly includes the philosophy in a way that echoes Dick. As a philosopher, I typically hate writers who explicitly discuss philosophical ideas in books. It takes something special to pull it off: Dick certainly had it, and Robinson has it. For one thing, he seems to actually understand the philosophical issues he raises, for another, just as with the science, the philosophy reflects events occurring in the novel and with the characters. Whole sections of the book are actually examinations of particular philosophical ideas folded into narrative. One is devoted to Kuhn's notion of the paradigm, a late chapter on the character Zo is lifted straight out of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, even Deleuze gets a chapter. I don't know that it would be possible to identify each section with a philosophical idea, but it would be worth trying.

So, lots of ideas, obviously. But fundamentally, it's stories and characters that sell narratives, and Robinson manages to provide those as well. A convenient plot device, the "gerontology treatments," greatly extends the lives of the characters, so that we are able to follow the first hundred through the entire 150-year span of the trilogy. In fact, many of these characters are killed off, lending a genuine sense of danger to the narrative and also providing a kind of woven structure to the narrative that's quite lovely. As some characters die, their story is taken by other members of the first hundred, or by new, "native born" Martians. If nothing else, the long story of Saxifrage Russell (not a subtle symbol, that name, as he is the main advocate of terraforming) and the hardcore "Red" Ann provides a remarkable continuity and also a terrific character development arc. I must say I was completely in love with Sax by the time the story was over: crazy, brilliant, compassionate, a sort of "good" mad scientist, he has become one of the my favorite characters in all of sci fi.

Panoramic, epic, and yet intimate, filled with science and ideas and politics, it's really a remarkable read. I'll agree with the criticisms that Blue Mars is a bit slow, and that the travelogues can be a bit overlong (although having a good map makes it much easier), but if you want to really go to Mars, this is how you get there.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,547 followers
December 12, 2019
[SPOILERS POSSIBLE BELOW, however, if you have come this far in Robinson's Mars Trilogy, there is little here that is really all that surprising.]

So, I suppose I can be a bit more open and explicit about my likes and dislikes of the Mars Trilogy now that I finished Blue Mars.
Science Geekout - For my inner geek, there was certainly a lot to enjoy overall. The concept of terraforming (and in this last book, colonizing the rest of the accessible solar system), fusion technology for space travel (although the inner workings of this were frustratingly lacking compared to the long passages about lichen, algae, and the regolith), the space elevator (with the cool mind-bending y-joint mentioned in Blue Mars) are just a few examples of cool tech. Robinson wrote these books in the 90s before Apple Watch (predicted here with increased visualization and AI capabilities), Facebook (there is a retro feel to his "private band" communication channels, but overall, the connectedness of the Martians is interesting), Google (the wrist AIs I mentioned above seem to be super amazingly good at searching), iPads (there are lots of tablets on Mars but for the life of me I can't remember the name he gave them and since I returned the books to the library already...) - so it was cool to see some of his predictions come true in our lifetime.

Philosophy - There is quite a lot of philosophy in the Mars trilogy starting with the Russell-Clayborne Green/Red debates on terraforming vs leaving Mars as-is. I found this to be original and fascinating as these are questions which I think would definitely arise. I also liked the societal problems that he envisions and the unique Martian solutions to, say, the economy (the positive eco-economics of Vlad and his girlfriends in particular in Red Mars in particular)

Immortality - I did not suspect that the Martians, Vlad in particular, would develop a cure for death (well, almost) and found the complications of this (memory loss in particular) to be fascinating and an interesting way to keep the story arcs alive over the nearly 200 year period during which the novels occur.

Shunted character arcs I have been wanting to say for a while how pissed I was at the premature deaths of John, Frank, and especially Arkady in Red and Green Mars. I found Frank to be relatively uninteresting (and the Frank-John-Maya love triangle contrived and annoying to be honest), but I liked John and really loved Arkady, so when they were precipitously killed off, I felt a bit ripped off to be honest. I also felt that it was unfortunate that we didn't get a perspective chapter or two from the Vlad side of the First Hundred because I would have liked to look inside his brain.

Non-sequitors I found that there were a few leaps the book made that were a bit artificial or that perhaps I entirely missed during this first read through the series. One example is Spencer, who we barely know, but who suddenly (was this mentioned in Red Mars because I could not find the reference) appears as a spy for 20 years at the transnat prison where Sax gets imprisoned in Green Mars. Really? That sounded rather convenient, but I'll retract if there was a mention of this posting back in Red Mars. Similarly, the character of Charlotte suddenly appears in Blue Mars and I was confused as to whether she was a issei or a nonsei because I don't recall her from Red Mars or Green Mars at all. Then there was the journalist from Red Mars that seemed to have disappeared (or was she killed during '61?). I found this quite confusing. Also, after using lots of tablets in Green Mars, they disappear completely in Blue Mars. There were lots of little things like this that bugged me, but I don't know if they were inconsistencies (which perhaps given the titanic amount of ground that Robinson covers is to be expected) or due to not reading close enough.

Undefined terms and missing maps I enjoyed all the discussions on geology and biology, but I would have liked a glossary to define some of the more esoteric terms that are used in the long descriptions of areology (itself an admittedly clever term). Red Mars seemed to be missing some maps so that I could more fully appreciate the distances that were traveled by the characters. When there were maps in Green Mars and Blue Mars, they did not always note the craters or geologic features which were described in the text which meant that either they weren't detailed enough or that they were almost nearly superfluous.

Overall impressions I would probably give the overall trilogy a 4 star rating for its originality and research. I think Blue Mars was the weakest volume as there was little action and I got a bit of Cheers syndrome watching Sax and Ann circle each other for so long without coming together until the end. At least Kim spared me the painful final season of Cheers when Sam and Diane were together. Well-worth reading and pondering and also researching as to the viability of some of these ideas 20 years later. KSR said in an interview in 2016, that the simultaneous discovery of bacteria on Mars and the almost complete absence of nitrogen detected during the most recent Mars probes would prove nearly insurmountable challenges to a Mars terraforming project in real life. I agreed with his conclusion that before terraforming another planet, perhaps we should be better custodians of our own. Because at its heart, the novel really is about the environment and its impact on the characters. The Red-Green divide is both psychological and societal and very real in our world now. This, for me, was the most enduring idea from the Mars Trilogy.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,866 followers
February 9, 2020
Ambitious and flawed, but still very special

The lengthy time it took me to finish this lengthy final volume in the monumental Mars Trilogy was mostly due to the fact that my reading schedule has been severely truncated lately. However, I will also say that this was the weakest of the three books in the trilogy, with a bit too much material that felt like a travelogue padding it.

Having said that, though, I am still very happy that I read the whole trilogy, which remains an incredibly ambitious and thoroughly fascinating epic. Robinson uses these three books to contemplate and investigate human enterprises and concerns such as colonization, revolution, history, geology, biology, senescence, memory, love, death, war, and on and on. I’m in awe of the scope of his mind, and continually impressed by his fluid, poetic, clean prose that he brings to bear.

A remarkable achievement.
Profile Image for Clouds.
228 reviews633 followers
April 7, 2014

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).

Blue Mars won the Locus Sci-Fi award in 1997, holding off stiff competition from Simmons Endymion and two fine Bujold novels ( Memory and Cetaganda ).

I was reading Blue Mars while my wife was in labour. As she dozed under the effects of an epidural, I was sprawled across some piled up beanbags, working my way through this final instalment of Robinson’s terraforming epic. I finished it up while waiting for my wife and newborn son to be released and as such it will forever remain etched on my heart.

Having read the entire Mars Trilogy back-to-back, I found Blue Mars to be a maddening and melancholy yet powerfully memorable book.

The blurb on the back is misleading. It sets the scene for Blue Mars to be a showdown between Mars and Earth. That storyline does slowly grow in stature throughout the book, but it never really dominates proceedings and climaxes with a whimper – it’s probably the weakest strand of the story.

The whole book is a melancholy affair. If Red Mars represented dreams crashing down, and Green Mars portrayed a new world being built up, then Blue Mars is about achieving a sustainable plateau. The characters are old, their memories are going, their goals have mostly been achieved and they don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s all a bit too reflective and listless to be truly gripping.

In the same way that the introduction of Nirgal in Green Mars seemed to give the series a fresh dimension, I felt the arrival of the hedonistic young Zo Boone in Blue Mars could really add something sparkling and fun. As such, I was extremely disappointed that .

And yet (I find myself saying) and yet! Despite these frustrating flaws, it is a fitting closure to the series which I shall remember in details for years to come. Over the course of three books I’ve come to treasure the character, Sax Russell, and for him to finally earn the love of his nemesis put a big goofy smile on my face. Throughout the first two books Maya Toitovana’s mood swings meant she grated as much as she enthralled me – but by the end of book three she’s reached a place of self-acceptance through her love of dramatic tragedy that made me want to hug her tightly.

I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this series one day, or not. It’s a hard old slog – but much like hiking the Appalachian trail, it's a journey that won’t be easily forgotten.

After this I read: The Graveyard Book
Profile Image for Barry.
81 reviews
March 19, 2008
The science is great. I don't agree with all of it, but who am I to say? I would equate his use of science as a literary device to Asimov, except Robinson uses science that is reasonable within humanities grasp. The science is the real strength of this book and series. It is outstanding.

His moving from character to character throughout all three books worked well. No points lost there.

The real problem with this series and especially this book was that, even though parts of it were fascinating, parts of it were so incredibly dull that a Pelican History of Greece was exciting in comparison. These parts were so bad that I kept it in my car so I could suffer through a little at a time while waiting in the McDonalds drive through. This is why this book took months rather than days to read.

If I wasn't anticipating a memorable endind, I would have given up despite having read the first two books with moderate suffering. Instead, when I reached the last page I had two questions.

First: Was that the end of the book or did they forget to put the last chapter in my copy?
Second: I thought I knew what the book (and series) was about, but was it about anything?.

My impression. Robinson only wrote this story (If it was a story. There were lots of events but no viable plot.) as a means to present some good theoretical science.
Profile Image for Randal.
968 reviews12 followers
March 25, 2013
Back in my drinking days, I would occasionally wake up next to someone I was sorry to find there, but I would still make them breakfast out of some sense of obligation. Misplaced empathy; too-long-delayed sobriety; vestigial chivalry; call it what you will. Reading Blue Mars was a lot like one of those breakfasts. I had enjoyed myself with book one and part of book two; this was just playing out the string. After I got rid of the novel, I lost its phone number and went to different bars for a couple of months so I wouldn't bump into it.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
915 reviews408 followers
July 12, 2018
¿Alguien sabe dónde reparten los premios por haber terminado la trilogía?
¿No? ¿Nadie? ¿Me la he leído para nada?

De verdad que admiro el trabajo del autor. Esta trilogía es un verdadero compendio de todos los saberes de la humanidad extrapolados a una futura terraformación en Marte y el Sistema Solar. Tal vez dentro de décadas se demostrará que Robinson es un visionario y estaba en lo cierto con todo lo que describió.
Pero de momento, a abril de 2018, es un verdadero coñazo de libro.
Me he encontrado leyendo sobre la Teoría de Cuerdas, sobre los ritos de apareamiento de los animales, sobre geología, antropología, física cuántica...Yo qué sé. Mil temas más sin conseguir crear una empatía con los personajes ni con lo que estaban haciendo.

¿En serio no dan premio?
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
870 reviews94 followers
June 13, 2022
I really enjoyed this series, one of the best 'true' futuristic science fiction series that is believeable yet entertaining with some excitement as well as good science. Elon Musk must have read it.

All three highly recommended, although I read them all a few years ago now.
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
948 reviews90 followers
February 7, 2020
There’s lots left to the imagination but quite a satisfying ending to this epic story nonetheless.

There were parts that dragged and sometimes I think that this book simply served as a place for KSR to satisfy his itch to expostulate on his research into fascinating subjects like memory, politics, biology and the like. But I’m kind of a nerd and KSR does a great job of making it really interesting even if it contributes absolutely nothing to the plot/story.

I could’ve lived without the extended side track to other parts of the solar system with a character we’d only just met and who didn’t last very long after that.

Those are the reasons for the deduction of a star on Story.

Over all, the whole series is definitely worth taking on and enjoyable as a whole!
Profile Image for Aerin.
149 reviews533 followers
June 15, 2020
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is a glorious beast. It is one of the most extraordinary science fiction epics I have ever read. Vast and complex and meticulously researched, character-driven but interplanetary in scope, gritty, political, beautiful, inventive, and always surprising. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me shiver in awe.

So why only three stars for Blue Mars, the final installment?


Blue Mars is set after the colonization struggles of Red Mars and the political upheavals of Green Mars. The blurb on the back promised even higher stakes this time: When a global flood wreaks havoc on the overpopulated Earth, immigration policy becomes a critical and divisive issue as the Martians draft their first global constitution. With desperate Terrans spoiling for interplanetary war, the ongoing dispute between the Red (conservationist) and Green (pro-terraforming) factions on Mars threatens to erupt into yet another civil war. And then there is the rising popularity of the Mars First party, comprised of native-born Martians who want to cut ties from Earth completely. The first few sections of this book certainly seemed to be setting up for some magnificently messy conflicts.

But then it all just kind of... fizzles. Instead, we spend a tiresome majority of this book with various characters who have decided to check out from life and wander the Martian wilderness. About a third of the novel is just descriptions of various regions of the planet and what they look like now that the terraforming has really taken hold. It's not that I dislike this kind of thing - Robinson's prose is the pleasant kind of didactic - and it's not that this wasn't a prominent feature of the first two books - because ohhhh yes, it was. It's just that the first two books also had plenty of fast-paced, shocking, heartbreaking sections too. Blue Mars just slowed to a crawl and never picked up any more steam.

Much of Blue Mars is a meditation on mortality, or the lack thereof. In Red Mars, the scientists develop a longevity treatment that pauses aging. As a result, we are able to follow the same core group of characters throughout all three books, despite that the events span roughly 300 years. At first, I was really happy with this development - it sucks to get emotionally invested in characters and then have to watch them all succumb to the ravages of time. But by about halfway through Blue Mars I was begging them all to just die already. Their same old interpersonal dramas, their increasingly antiquated beliefs, their unending complaints as their bodies and minds reach the limits of their useful life. It was just a parade of misery. I wanted to read about the younger generations of Martians, their new ways of living, their visions for the future, their energy.

Or failing that, uh, whatever happened to that population crisis on Earth? And everything else the first quarter of the book seemed to be setting up? It's not that those issues aren't dealt with later on, but they never take center stage and they never really turn into anything worth caring about. I miss Red Mars and the way it had all those, you know, events.

So Blue Mars was a little disappointing, a meandering, largely plot-free doorstopper of a book. But I still love KSR, and I still wholeheartedly recommend the Mars trilogy - it's so big and so ambitious and so thorough and so fascinating. It's a world I think about often, a messy utopia filled with characters that will always have a special place in my heart (even if they did overstay their welcome a bit by book 3). Ever since finishing it, I've had the urge to pick up Red Mars and embark on this 2000-page journey all over again. But I'll wait. I'll let it settle a bit. I'll go explore some other worlds for awhile.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 30 books201 followers
March 7, 2014
There’s something of ‘after the lord mayor’s parade’ about this volume. After the revolution of the last volume, I was hoping for something of civil war in this. For the bulk of the narrative though it’s just a lot of characters figuring out what Mars means to them; which although well written, lacks a certain drama. For instance, there’s a long section about blight attacking the potato crop of one of the major characters. Now, if you were actually farming on Mars, that's no doubt a problem which would be a great worry, but it doesn't really shake the reader by the lapels demanding attention.

After all the immersion in Mars and all things Martian in the previous books, there's more of a solar-system wide travelogue to this volume, with visits to Mercury, Earth (allowing the author to try and fail to capture a cockney accent. Okay he doesn’t quite channel Dick Van Dyke, but it would never pass muster down Catford.) and the moons of Jupiter and Uranus. Since these books have hitherto concentrated, with vast detail, on life on Mars, these soujorns feel like a loss of focus. As if Stanley Robinson suddenly realised he didn't actually have enough Mars material for three volumes.

(That feeling is only intensified by the sudden appearance of inter-generational sex on the Martian surface. It's not that that particular hot and heavy scene demands a nomination for 'The Bad Sex Prize', but the sudden appearance of a lusty young maiden and her unlimited desires a thousand or so pages in (or whatever it is, I read it on a Kindle) does feel like an author scrabbling around for something to write about.)

Towards the end, the background rumblings of a war do finally start to crack the surface, but annoyingly Stanley Robinson chooses not to focus his attention there. Instead he tries to deal with what I thought was a big flaw in this otherwise, detailed, seemingly realistic, hard science-fiction trilogy – the fact that its characters have had aging treatments and are living for hundreds of years. There’s an attempt to examine what this would mean both physically and mentally – how much memory could such an old brain hold, after all? – but clearly, and frustratingly, he doesn’t take this examination anywhere near as far as he could. The problems that are raised are sorted out neatly with scientific mumbo jumbo, a wave of a magic wand and a deus ex machine. All of which leads to a happy ending which is heavily signalled in this volume, but surprised me having read the two previous books.

So having ploughed through all three long volumes, I find myself disappointed. The first two I enjoyed, but the third feels flat, unfocused and inconsequential. It’s like I’ve travelled a great distance for nothing much in particular, but then maybe ‘travelling a great distance for nothing much in particular’ is exactly what the real Mars would be like.
Profile Image for Jemppu.
500 reviews91 followers
September 4, 2022
Such a wonderful and endlessly fascinating exploration on comprehensive set of themes from humanity's collective sociopolitical issues to individual experiences on human condition, scientific speculation, and the marvel of nature.

Whole of the series has been a captivating vision and a pleasantly intellectual read. Leaving me most excited to continue with more of Stanley Robinson's work.

4 to 5 stars rounded up for the sweet closing scene.

(Detailed in length in the reading updates below).
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,864 reviews371 followers
August 20, 2020
Sometimes I need a shove to get me moving. I've had this book out of the library for a while, but hadn't felt inspired to tackle it. I knew there would be a pile of (for me) yawn-inducing detail, both scientific and political. I'm sure Robinson must have read Frank Herbert's Dune series, but despite some similarities, that world captivated me and I struggle to care about this version of Mars. At any rate, I didn't click “renew" when I should have and found myself with only 5 days to read over 700 pages. I don't know whether to thank or curse the person who requested this title.

The anti-aging treatments that keep the original Mars settlers going and going seem to me to kind of petrify the new society. With little generational turnover, young people are stuck dealing with these elders who are rich in experience but short on flexibility. Like the Baby Boomers, they refuse to get out of the way and let younger folk explore new possibilities. Can you imagine if George Washington or Winston Churchill were still wandering around, wizened old things still trying to be relevant, sure they knew what was best for present societies? Perish the thought! Rather like the rock stars of the sixties struggling to stay hip without breaking a hip.

I thought it was quite perceptive of Robinson to have Maya approaching a youngish man at a gathering and being glad that he didn't act like she was “Helen of Troy or Lucy the habilene Fossil.” Close to the end of the book, as the ultra-elderly start dying, it gets a bit sad, but ask any 90 year old today about it. They are going through the same thing. My 86 year old aunt was watching all her friends die until she joined them. It gets lonely if you have a long life.

The issues that plague Mars society are also things that we are dealing with today. The Red Mars faction are devoted environmentalists who want to severely restrict development. There are debates over immigration from Earth and shady side deals are struck. Settlers are plunging onto the Martian surface illegally. Mars society is fractured into many groups with different world views and values. Leadership is essential, but its difficult for anyone to lead when public opinion is so splintered. Not to mention the generational differences mentioned above. In many ways Robinson seems to anticipate in 1996 many of the problems that face us in 2020.

I've got to hand it to Robinson, he has obviously done piles of research on terraforming, ground water management, space travel, geology, engineering and human memory & psychology among many other subjects. I wonder if Sax Russell is a kind of alter ego? It seems like they are both very familiar with obsessively researching interesting subjects. Like Sax, the whole trilogy held me at arm's length, not giving me much emotional purchase and making it difficult for me to truly connect with the story. Despite that, I did find the ending rather bittersweet and I'm ultimately glad that I read until the end. So, thank you, unknown requester of this library book, you got me to put some welly into the reading process and knock this title off this year's planned reading list.

Book number 375 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

Cross posted to my blog:

Profile Image for Gabi.
694 reviews120 followers
January 27, 2020
3.5 Stars

This last volume couldn't suck me in like the other two did. But it is still an impressive undertaking filled with understandable musings about a wide variety of scientific areas.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,625 reviews239 followers
February 7, 2013
Every now and then I stumble across a truly inspired book. This is one of them. One of three, actually, as it is the last in a trilogy, starting with “Red Mars” and continuing with “Green Mars”. Colonists come to Mars and transform it into a liveable world, while trying not to make the same mistakes as Earth did. Beautifully written, great characterisations. Mars comes to life, it’s almost like reading poetry. I felt really bad after finishing it, because I had to part with this great story.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book140 followers
March 12, 2011
"Here we are." A genre, if not a literary tour de force. Blue Mars concludes nearly 2000 pages of Robinson's middle 1990s future history of the settling and development of Mars. While Robinson strays close to the border of ridiculous social commentary a la Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, most readers will identify his monumental achievement chronicling the physics, chemistry, biology--and, yes, even the psychology and politics of his brave new world.

That said, Robinson cut many corners and stacked the deck in favor of his settlers. In fact, often their biggest challenge was to keep from killing one another—but isn't that true to life? Paradoxically, his neo-Marxist society existed as a leisure class-unencumbered by worries of money or costs--all made possible by robots, AI and genetics.

The fun was somewhat diminished by the long sermons, but Robinson even managed to laugh at himself occasionally.

Quibbles: All too easy and too fast. Instant trains; instant fusion rockets, (almost) instant breathable air. Underwater salt columns which hadn't dissolved after a century? Scuba down two kilometers? Round world running events? Polar bears? Talk your way out of major interplanetary confrontations? He creates a volcano in Green Mars, then doesn't mention it again in that book or in Blue Mars.

Much like Thomas More's Utopia, but still a fun read.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,691 followers
January 1, 2012
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.

This volume of the Mars Trilogy departs from its predecessors in one tremendous leap -- this is a work of philosophy and politics before it is a story. And this change makes it the best of the series. All of the characters are here, but it is what they say and believe and do that is so special.

This novel changed me. It altered the way I perceive my world, particularly the words of Vlad concerning "capitalist feudalism." But more importantly, it reinvigorated my desire to make a difference and not just live my life in isolation. I was reading this novel while the U.S. and NATO were attacking Serbia over Kosovo. A few weeks later, the Columbine [shootings] happened in Colorado. Then came Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. It all seems so depressing and overwhelming and meaningless, but really these events are all of a piece, and all are incentives to change those things Robinson so rightly criticizes.

I don't know if I can change anything, but I am sure going to try.

[A note of personal interest: those changes that Robinson catalysed are still with me today, but they were also something of a breakpoint for my first marriage. The changes pushed us too far apart to ever be together again.]
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews535 followers
February 26, 2016
This final part ends one of the most complex sci-fi series I have ever read. The accent here is put on the development of the natives, their society and also on the their relationship with Earth and the new colonized planets.

It is not a light read, however, the way KSR imagined the development on Mars is highly interesting, with the focus not on action but on characters, which are analyzed in great detail.

Some will find it boring, but it depends on what your expectations are: if you expect great action and suspense, aliens or turnabouts, then this is not for you. But if you are interested in politics, economics, sociology and science, then it is a must read.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
496 reviews64 followers
December 29, 2019
Just finished the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy. The third books definitely didn’t let up, but took the story, their dilemmas and the characters to a new level. I was quite sad to let them go by the end, I could have read about them forever, I think. This has definitely been one of the most profound and fascinating works I’ve ever read, heavily focused on socio- and geopolitics, science and medicine, with long chapters of debate and moral exploration. Just like I love my scifi.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
March 11, 2016
I just don't even know where to start with this book. There are so many parts of it that aggravated me nearly to the point of distraction, and then there would be a part that was pretty good, and then there would be frustration again, and sometimes I'd want to tear characters out of the book and throttle them. Is it really that bad? Or is it just that I am far too aggravated by what is really a defining feature of many of Robinson's characters in many of his books?

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Genia Lukin.
228 reviews176 followers
August 1, 2013
More than a review of the book itself, this is a brief review of the whole trilogy.

In Red Mars robinson sends his crew of highly-cold-war-themed characters to the Promised La-- I mean, to Mars, where humanity can begin a new era of terraforming, colonization, and all-around awesomeness. But as soon as they arrive there, the colonists, all of them Spacefaring Badasses (except the radical Christian) decide that they wish to establish a New and Utopic Society, and that they deserve, nay, are obliged, to detach themselves from Earth to make a Better World.

In Green Mars, they do just that. Nobody questions their inherent assumption of uniqueness and manifest destiny. Except Earth, who is playing the villain, trying to keep Mars bound to metanational corporation and capitalism, and destroy the primeval planet for its own nefarious ends, like, well, alleviating hunger, and population density.

Somewhere in there, together with everything else, the author introduces the plot device of the Longevity Treatment, so that he can have the same characters reappear throughout the generation-long task of terraforming a planet.

This Avatar-like scenario (except for the Martians, thank God) is brought to an all around successful conclusion in this current book, Blue Mars. If the Gratuitous Caps, the Slightly Cynical Tone and the Allusions to Americana are not sufficiently revealing, let me state explicitly that I did not altogether approve of the series.

It had some merits. The first book was actually entertaining, and the beginnings of terraforming on an alien, uninhabitable planet were researched with the caution and precision we would expect of a hard sci-fi author like Robinson. But the veer into politics, and, later, the lengthy, rambling digressions into more terraforming than we ever cared about, including depths of canals, precise dating of geology, etc', created books that were overly long, occupied often with things that didn't interest me at all, and characters that were flat as a cardboard cut.

And speaking of politics, I found it smug, sanctimonious, and on many levels just a little too pat. The utopia and perfect harmony blooming out of the empty; the manifest destiny of Mars to "educate" the screwed-up, old-fashioned Earth, the liberal values replacing all tradition, the "assimilationist" policy favoured even by those characters in the books who purportedly wanted cooperation with Earth. I felt like reminding Robinson that Melting Pot strategies stopped being popular already in the sixties.

There was something generally dated in these books, and it was not the science. Some of the cold war vibe, perhaps, but more than that, this notion of a perfect society that can be better than other societies due to an inherent virtue of being as liberal and harmonious and rational as it was possible to be. The clear-cut idea of humanity hurtling through the medieval primate urges of its patriarchal past into a clean pure future where American - that is, Martian - values (except capitalism, of course, which was replaced by an only slightly edited and miraculously viable socialism) guide mankind into the glorious Golden Age culmination of human history.

I can't deny that the author did at least try to attempt to insert inherent human frailties, like greed, lust for power, dogmatism, reactionism, and xenophobia, into the mix, but his solutions were often as one-sided as the problems he tried to present, and grated on my admittedly much-too-cynical nerves immensely.

It's not a bad read, but by the end of three books, I was quite done.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,691 reviews638 followers
August 1, 2019
This final instalment of the Mars trilogy was published in 1996, which makes it all the more audacious and impressive that Kim Stanley Robinson thoroughly dismisses globalised capitalism as unstable and archaic. In ‘Blue Mars’, he evokes a postcapitalist Martian economy consisting of co-ops, universal basic income, and gifting. By this point in the trilogy, the reader know what to expect: a narrative focused not on big dramatic events, but on environmental change, scientific discovery, and political minutiae. A detailed tapestry of world-building, rather than a plot-led thriller. If Green Mars meanders slowly around the planet, displaying its beauties to the reader, so does this finale. As I knew what to expect, and what not to, I found ‘Blue Mars’ a magnificent conclusion and a truly involving vision of the future. The characters served predominantly as viewpoints, although they also had distinctive individual voices. They were drowned out by Mars itself, however, and that was more to my taste than perhaps it would be to some. I was blown away by the sheer intellectual rigor of the book. It swept me into a hopeful, convincing future. At the present moment of climate crisis, political breakdown, and cultural conflict, that felt like a wonderful gift. Notably, in the 22nd century evoked here Earth remains in the Holocene and sea level rise is not explicitly linked to global warming.

Kim Stanley Robinson fills nearly 800 pages without very much plot by closely exploring a series of themes, without coming to any simple conclusions. I got the impression of plot being something that occurs in the background while you’re living your life – even if you’re among the First Hundred, the famous initial settlers on Mars. Through their eyes, the reader considers mythology (little red men; Hiroko), political power (hard; soft; interplanetary; inherited), memory (as identity; mutability; danger), science (string theory; interplanetary travel; longevity; terraforming), and constitutional law (democratic accountability; ensuring participation; role of the legislature).

The contrasts between generations are particularly vivid, and these shed light on a particularly big question: once humanity has ended the struggle for subsistence, expanded our lifespan, and gained unprecedented freedom, how then do we occupy ourselves? The remaining First Hundred, mostly scientists, continue to pursue knowledge and concern themselves with the future of Mars. They find it hard to escape the past, especially Ann. The generation below them, however, has inherited little of their anxiety. Nirgal and Zo throw themselves into intense experiences, such as orgies and extreme sports. They are sensualists, pushing their bodies to find better pleasures. Nirgal’s ultramarathon around the entirety of Mars and Zo’s flying are thrilling sequences to read. For once in my life, I even found a scene of organised sports compelling. The Martian equivalent of the Olympics did not separate competitors by gender and, thanks to lower gravity, the long jump and pole vault reached spectacular distances. Most importantly, the whole thing was suffused with joy, rather than sheer competitiveness. As the book proceeds, the First Hundred find paths through life beyond their sense of duty to Mars. Members of both generations, and subsequent immigrants, try going back to the land. Mars could be flippantly described as having Fully Automated Luxury Space Communism, as industry does not require humans to do anything except instruct AIs. Food cultivation, however, is tied into terraforming and therefore takes on great importance. The chapter in which Nirgal finds a little corner to cultivate illustrates the highs and lows of this especially well.

Further illumination is cast on Mars by comparisons with other planets. As technology facilitates travel and colonisation within the solar system, Martians visit their neighbours. An extended visit to Earth features casual racism on the bedraggled Norfolk coast (which rang true – I grew up not far away from there). Earth’s population pressure creates demands for Mars to take more immigrants, a debate that continues throughout the book. As ever, there are no easy answers. A meaningful proportion of Earth’s 15 billion cannot be accommodated on Mars, as it still lacks a full atmosphere. Yet the concept of carrying capacity is a fraught one. As you might expect, the political argument on Mars is less about physical resources and more about cultural assimilation.

Later in the book, Martians also visit Uranus and Mercury, both of which are much more challenging to occupy than Mars. Uranus has very low gravity and little heat. Mercury is more hostile still and I love the ingenious solution Kim Stanley Robinson comes up with. As the planet rotates, the side facing the sun is uninhabitably hot and the sun facing away from it uninhabitably cold. So Mercury has a city on tracks, which moves constantly so as to stay in the narrow liveable strip at the edge, constantly chasing sunset. There’s a wonderful scene in which Zo convinces a drunk friend to venture out onto the city's tracks with her. As with many other scenes, the reader observes characters with very little risk in their lives deliberately putting themselves in physical peril just for kicks. Or in some cases, simply not thinking through risks despite their undoubted intelligence. The scene in which Ann gets chased by a polar bear stands out in this respect. Not only is it lovely to imagine polar bears roaming the icy Martian wastes, the sequence also shows how humans can profoundly change their environment without controlling it or making it safe. The many beautiful descriptions of Martian landscapes display a great respect for wildness. While some characters deplore the interference of terraforming (another debate that continues throughout), it is clear that ecopoesis need not be anthropocentric as such. While the aim is to create an atmosphere that humans can breathe, there are many ways this be done. The choices made on Mars prioritise biodiversity, rather than a sterile environment manufactured just for humans.

Each volume of the Mars trilogy features a revolution on Mars and each successive book ostensibly gives it less space in the narrative. The way I saw it, Kim Stanley Robinson was showing the exponential increase in social complexity as a human population rises. In Red Mars, the planet has hundreds of inhabitants, in Green Mars thousands, and in ‘Blue Mars’ millions. Thus the mechanisms of social change in a decentralised world become harder to personify and isolate in a few leaders. ‘Blue Mars’ depicts the conditions that create the final revolution, rather than centring it on a small cast of revolutionaries. Moreover, each revolution is less violent and convulsive than the last, another deeply hopeful perspective. Much as I love the content of the Mars trilogy, though, two thousand pages would definitely drag were Kim Stanley Robinson not such a skilful writer. These two quotes demonstrate the distinctive perspectives he gives to his characters. First, Sax:

He wandered over tundra moss and samphire, kedge and grass. Life on Mars. An odd business. Life anywhere, really. Not at all obvious that it should appear. This was something Sax had been thinking about recently. Why was there increasing order in any part of the cosmos, when one might expect nothing but entropy everywhere? This puzzled him greatly. He had been intrigued when Spencer had offered an offhand explanation, over beer one night on the Odessa corniche – in an expanding universe, Spencer had said, order was not really order, but merely the difference between the actual entropy exhibited and the maximum entropy possible. This difference was what humans perceived as order. Sax had been surprised to hear such an interesting cosmological notion from Spencer, but Spencer was a surprising man. Although he drank too much alcohol.

Lying on the grass looking at tundra flowers, one couldn’t help thinking about life. In the sunlight the little flowers stood on their stems glowing with their anthracyins, dense with colour. Ideograms of order. They did not look like a mere difference in entropic levels. Such a fine texture to a flower petal; drenched in light; it was almost as if it were visible molecule by molecule: there a white molecule, there a lavender, there clematis blue. These pointillist dots were not molecules, of course, which were way below visible resolution. And even if molecules had been visible, the ultimate building blocks of the petal were so much smaller that they were hard to imagine – finer than one’s conceptual resolution, one might say.

Second, Maya:

And then the feeling came over her again, the pre-epileptic aura of the presque vu, the sea glittering, a vast significance suffusing everything, immanent everywhere but just beyond reach, pressing in on things – and with a little pop she got it – that that very aspect of the phenomenon was itself the meaning – that the significance of everything always lay just out of reach, in the future, tugging them forward – that in special moments one felt this tidal tug of becoming as a sensation of sharp, happy anticipation, as she had when looking down at Mars from the Ares, the unconscious mind filled not with the detritus of a dead past but with the unforeseeable possibilities of the live future, ah, yes – anything could happen, anything, anything. And so as the presque vu washed slowly away from her, unseen and yet somehow this time comprehended, she sat back on the bench, full and glowing; here she was, after all, and the potential for happiness would always be in her.
Profile Image for fromcouchtomoon.
311 reviews64 followers
November 29, 2013
The characters of The Mars series are much like Martian volcanoes: flat and shallow at first glance, with little expectation beyond the short horizon. But the horizon deceives, and that gradual slope in development results in a surge that extends miles into the atmosphere. That surge occurs in this third installment, Blue Mars, and leaves the reader gaping into the enormous depths of jagged human emotions.

It’s not that KSR intended for his characters to appear two-dimensional in the first installment of this series; it’s just that the character treatment in Red Mars was nowhere near the depth and breadth of his treatment of the Martian environment and technology. But that flaw is rectified in Green Mars, and in Blue Mars the characters are what eventually save this series from becoming a Carl Sagan-esque textbook mash-up of really cool speculations about Mars. (Which has its own merits, but c’mon, this is a novel!)

Click to read my reviews of the previous installments of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy series: Red Mars (#1) and Green Mars (#2)

The Synopsis
The First Hundred have become The Final Twenty-Something as the early colonists of Mars have suffered through accidents, murder, isolation, intrigue, and two major political revolts. Now, as the Martian terrain becomes hospitable and the population swells due to Terran immigration and native reproduction, the elderly survivors of The First Hundred try to settle into normal lives, while also steering the infant government in official and unofficial political appointments. In addition, they battle the unforeseen complications of being the first generation to benefit from the longevity treatments that have allowed them survive for over two centuries.

Blue Mars gives the reader a chance to see the survivors of The First Hundred (and some of their offspring) living normal lives (or trying to, at least). They are no longer the eggheaded outcasts of Red Mars, or the world-building dieties of Green Mars. Now, they are elderly celebrities with memory problems, who are sometimes derided or forgotten as the younger generations vie for political power. These people, who once traded Terran society for a grim, isolated life on an inhospitable planet, must now participate in a vibrant, breathable world among millions of other humans. In the process of their adaptation, KSR explores complex human experiences associated with intimacy, rivalry, mental health, and emotional growth. And how many mid-life crises can you have before your 200th birthday?

The Series
It’s difficult to characterize a series as expansive as The Mars Trilogy, but it’s a bit like driving around with beloved Grandpa in a classic, yet clunky, old sports car. Each novel begins slowly, puttering along while KSR shows off the scenery– and he won’t move on until he is certain that the reader knows every detail– the color of every leaf , the feel of Martian grav on the joints, the behavior of the ocean waves, (as well as the biological, chemical, metereological, and physical reasons for each of these observations). Green Mars and Blue Mars contribute to the bulk by further exploring his theories on government and economics. But this old car doesn’t idle well, and sometimes the plot stalls on these detours. But– BUT– keep turning that engine, because once it gets going again, it’s an exciting ride– until Grandpa wants to stop and look at the flowers again. Yes, the flowers are pretty, Gramps, but what about the story?

But by the end of the ride, all that frustrating stopping and starting is worth it, and all those observations coalesce into a pulsating, lush world.

This is high-definition reading. I hope your head is HD ready.

Confession: Everything KSR writes is beautiful, and I have the Twitter feed to prove it, but I’ll admit that each book in this series started as a struggle to read. My experience of the whole series is a contradiction: each book felt dull, yet fascinating. I dreaded each session of reading during the first half of each book, and yet I couldn’t put down the last two novels for the final 40% of the story. (Many of my favorite novels share this attribute.)

It’s really a case of sensory overload, and I often blanked out during the massive chunks of tedious detail. My advice is to blow through the political tedium (there are A LOT of political conferences, the worst sections for massive infodumps), and if you blank-out on the scenery, don’t bother re-reading. It’s nice for flavor, but missing some pieces won’t detract from ultimate understanding or enjoyment. Trust me, I lost a lot of hours due to re-reading (and re-blanking).

But I get overwhelmed in department stores, so maybe I’m just sensitive to sensory overload.

Blue Mars is the true gem of this series, and Green Mars is worth a look, too. The Hugo voters of the 1990′s got it right when they left Red Mars on the shortlist and gave the best novel award to the final two installments. Setting and science are necessary for good SF, but strong character development makes excellent SF. Blue Mars gets everything right with a fully realized world, scientifically-backed (yet dubiously expensive) technology, and a lifetime of two centuries with endearingly flawed characters.

And, if The Mars trilogy sounds like too much hassle, try KSR’s 2312, which shares a similar universe and ideas, but with a simpler, mystery-style story, and smaller infodumps.

Tidbits to share:

The trip to Uranus is extraneous, yet awesome.
The vivid descriptions of memory loss and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms are heart-breakingly realistic.
Birdsuits… floating towns… cat genes on human vocal chords… yeah, this book has everything.
Profile Image for Robin Wiley.
170 reviews26 followers
April 27, 2009
For me, this trilogy is one of those life-changing books - something you talk about, and think about years later. If we ever go to Mars - this is the way it should be done. For those of you not familiar with Kim Stanley Robinson, his science is so grounded in real, hard, current science - it's called future history.

For those of you scared of sci-fi being too boring - much like that physics class you hated - relax. Robinson gives you the basic idea, without pages to describe just how a particular engine works. For those of you sick of Star Trek solutions - Reconfigure the tri-corders or the dilithium crystal and BAM - problem solved! I swear you will feel satisfied.

What do you do to earn your money, or your food? How do you create rules, and a government in this completely alien place? When a vaccine for aging is developed - is everyone allowed to have it? Do you send it to Earth? Do you let poor and uneducated people have it for free? How about over-populated places like India? All the terra-forming science used to make Mars habitable - how far do you go with it? Just because you can do it - does that make it right to do it? Should you share it with Earth, or make them pay? Do you do the other planets next?

These are the questions he explores, discusses and answers.

If you like to think about stuff like this - start reading and make yourself a happy human. If "thinkin" ain't your thing - walk away slowly and no one will get hurt. John Carter this is not. You are participating in the dialogue, even if you are just watching the action. So this is a book for those who want to ponder, brood, wonder, think, debate and discuss.

What's to love?

ACTION - there's a trip back to Earth, and the Martians come to the rescue.
DESCRIPTION - lot's and lots and lots, but the scale is so HUGE it's cool. Instead of Grand Canyon, think Marinaras Trench, but not under the ocean.
CHARACTERS - Great! These people had to endure a year of isolated, highly-monitored living in a confined space to get a ticket on the spaceship. But think about it, what kind of people would want to do that - no family, no friends - move to Mars, face possible death, not come back. Just think about it.
CREATION - creating a new world, new economic systems, new politics, new ecosystems, new species, new religions, new science. Every civilization is a possibility of what you can have, and an example of what you should dismiss. What would you do?

What's not so fun?

Sometimes the Tolkein-size descriptions of the landscape are too much. Skim a little here and there if you have to, but don't miss the EPIC size scenery, because it will stick with you forever.

Read this and for the rest of your life, you will perk up whenever someone mentions Mars. Oh, and you will have informed opinions.
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24 reviews
April 13, 2023
The classic trilogy limps home in a meandering finale.
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