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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Blue Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson

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To purchase Blue Mars

Title: Blue Mars
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996
Length: 761 pages
Availability: Blue Mars - US
Blue Mars - UK
Blue Mars - Canada
La Trilogie martienne - France
Blauer Mars - Deutschland
  • The third volume in The Mars Trilogy
  • See also the other volumes in The Mars Trilogy: Red Mars and Green Mars

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Our Assessment:

B+ : ambitious, creative

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph A 11/5/1996 Ian Watson
The NY Times Book Rev. . 30/6/1996 Gerald Jonas
TLS . 3/5/1996 Edward James

  From the Reviews:
  • "His diction and vision are so precise. A beautiful book -- to be lived in." - Ian Watson, Daily Telegraph

  • "His latest novel, Blue Mars -- the final volume in a masterly trilogy that began with Red Mars and Green Mars -- represents a breakthrough even from his own consistently high level of achievement." - Gerald Jonas, The New York Times Book Review

  • "His Mars trilogy (...) now establishes him as the pre-eminent contemporary practitioner of science fiction. (...) It is the changing landscape of Mars which is the true protagonist of this extraordinary novel; Robinson describes it with passion and poetry, and so vividly that this fictional Mars seems so much more real than the actual surface of the Moon which we have glimpsed through the mundane perception of the Apollo astronauts." - Edward James, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The concluding volume of the Mars-trilogy begins: "Mars is free now. We're on our own." But almost immediately the issue is of how completely the former colony wants to break from Earth. There is again a sky-elevator, a huge cable dangling into the atmosphere that permits larger-scale immigration (just like the one that was brought down in 2061), and the Martians do consider cutting what is essentially the umbilical cord.
       Well into the 22nd century now, it is, in fact, Earth that seems in more trouble now than Mars. The longevity treatment that permits almost all to extend their lives by decades and possibly centuries is now widespread, making for a very crowded earth -- but even Mars has population-pressures to contend with, with 12 million there around the start of the novel and more coming (and being born there).
       On Mars itself there are still those who want a 'red Mars', with as little human interference in the larger picture of the planet, but 'terraforming' -- making the planet Earth-like -- is hard to keep down. Much of Blue Mars is concerned with the political system that should apply on free Mars now, and there is considerable debate about a constitution and how to make governance as democratic as possible (with Robinson having them settle on a relatively appealing final form).
       The relationship between Mars and Earth is also a significant issue, and several of the Martians go to Earth, in an interesting reversal. Most of the focus is on those of the 'First Hundred' that return home, but Mars-born Nirgal also goes (and has physical trouble adapting to the Terran atmosphere ...). (In a quest-sub-plot, Nirgal also spends a ridiculous amount of time looking for his (and so many others' ...) mother Hiroko on Earth, and this looking for other people is a somewhat tiresome thread in the novel.)
       Earth isn't faring particularly well, but still holds some appeal:

Steaming, clotted, infectious, a human anthill stuck with a stick ; the panic pullulation ongoing in the dreadful mash of history; the hypermalthusian nightmare at its worst; hot, humid, and heavy; and yet still, or perhaps because of all that, a great place to visit.
       Robinson envisions a fairly dreadful scenario in the breakdown of c=ivilization, but the spirit of the trilogy is still an extremely optimistic one, light rather than dark: he can't give up his basic belief in humanity (and he moves surprisingly easily over many of the big catastrophes). The course of history in Blue Mars moves inexorably forward, always progressing (despite those inconvenient catastrophic setbacks). Among the most fascinating parts are his vision of what next, as Mars is merely the first planet or piece of space colonized, and he describes the next steps that are taken (including the creative taking of Mercury, where a whole city moves along a planet-girding track at three miles an hour, so as permanently to be in the only safe zone ...).
       As in the previous volumes, Robinson is stuck between individuals' stories and an enormously ambitious saga dominated by the forces of history and technology, change that takes place over decades and centuries. The parts are fascinating, but the whole feels slightly inadequate, with so many pieces one wishes were filled in more completely. But Robinson does write his characters well enough, as well as presenting good adventure, interesting technology, and political issues, making it an appealing read.
       Robinson's most radical decision was in essentially giving his characters immortality (save the ones who got murdered or died in accidents -- of which there are quite a few). This allows for continuity across the three volumes and hundreds of years, but Robinson doesn't always use it to best effect (especially when he so often has his characters searching for one another, following each other's trails) and it makes the trilogy seem more fantasy than it has to.
       Still, as a large vision Blue Mars -- and the trilogy as a whole -- is more success than failure, and a good, thought-provoking read.

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Blue Mars: Reviews: Kim Stanley Robinson: Other books by Kim Stanley Robinson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Kim Stanley Robinson has written several highly acclaimed works of science fiction.

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© 2007-2024 the complete review

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