©Kim Stanley Robinson.
I loved the first book in this science fiction trilogy, “Red Mars,” reviewed here, and have just finished the second book. While I enjoyed it, I found it suffered some of the usual problems of a middle book. The initial concept: settling Mars in the near future, and all the consequences of humans on Mars, both good and bad, was established in brilliant fashion in the first book, culminating in an exciting battle for control of the planet by the settlers. In this one, there are many further developments, but all built upon what was established in the first book, and only a less satisfying climax, because there needs to be room for a bigger one in the third book, or so I assume (haven’t read it yet).
The first half of the book I found a bit slow, as new characters are introduced, and the situations of previous characters are explored. That there are any continuing characters is the result of a handy plot device: a longevity treatment that gives a dozen or more of the original 100 settlers very long lives, and a place in the story long after they might normally have perished. Maya, Nadia and Sax are three who have major roles here despite their age, or in part, because of it. The new characters are mainly drawn from the first two generations born on the planet, with one Earthman joining them. There are lots of scientific explanations and explorations of the planet as it now stands on the brink of terraforming; changes in climate, atmosphere and fauna that are gradually turning Mars into a place where humans can live. But politics makes lots of difficulties for everyone as Earth’s wealthy try to keep control of things on both planets.
The pace picks up in the middle of the book when Sax is captured by Earth security and must be rescued if possible. From there the tension rises as the planet gradually moves toward revolution and, the inhabitants hope, independence. The ins and outs of the Earth/Mars situation are explored while various plans move along toward the goal, and in the final section the moves are made, and everything gets exciting again.
Worth reading, not as innovative or fresh as the first book, but I’ll certainly read the third one to see how it all turns out. Recommended.