© Kim Stanley Robinson.
It took me several weeks to finish the nearly 800 pages of this third book in the Mars trilogy. My enthusiasm for the first book, Red Mars, abated a bit for the second, Green Mars, and rallied some for this final volume, which does have the advantage of closing out many long-running storylines.
The book begins right after the conclusion of Green Mars, with the battle for control over the main access route to the planet from space, the Space Elevator, providing some action and excitement, then continues with the establishment of a new government for a free Mars, with lots of political wrangling that slows things down considerably. Later chapters continue the stories of some of the remaining few original first 100 settlers, now over 200 years old thanks to future-science longevity treatments. Second and third generation characters also get some time in the spotlight. The greatly aged originals’ stories tend to focus on their health and mental struggles, while playing out old relationship dynamics. Politics and science get a good share of the narrative, and some of that is a bit of a slog, frankly.
Robinson tries to do many kinds of storytelling with these books, which is admirable, but at times he doesn’t blend them very well, and by frequent change of viewpoint characters, also makes the books episodic. That said, I don’t regret reading them for a moment, they’re fine books with lots of the good ideas that are at the heart of science fiction. And at the end, as he brings some of the original 100 back to their first settlement, it allows the reader to realize how far the planet Mars has come: from barren, dry, lifeless, nearly no atmosphere rock to a world containing a huge northern ocean, a world rich with life, teeming with plants and animals, and a huge variety of colony settlements. The ocean is the setting for the final adventure/action sequence, and it’s a fine one.
I do recommend this and all three books. I think they could have benefitted from being shorter, with a more through-line narration, but if you like thoughtful science fiction, they’re worthwhile, and you can always skim through the large, expository science parts if you want. The first book remains the best for me.