Bantam Spectra, 1993, 1994 and 1996
These three books form a trilogy about the terraforming of Mars, and the "areoforming" of its human settlers. It appears to be set in the same future as Robinson's earlier novels The Memory of Whiteness and Icehenge, and some of the short stories in The Planet on the Table. Those stories told of a later time in the solar system's history, when most of the outer planets' moons had been colonized. The Mars trilogy tells how this came to be, by telling in wonderful detail the story of the first permanent colony away from Earth.
The story deals with several main themes. One is that of revolution, the colony seeking and finally gaining its independence from the parent civilization, as in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The trilogy deals more with what happens after independence is achieved, the hard work of forming a constitution and making it work in practice, than most such stories. But this is only one thread among several. More important, perhaps, is the ongoing debate about whether terraforming is a good thing, and how far it should go. The debate arises out of the environmentalist ethic developed in the 20th century, but on Mars, the two main principles of conservation and environmentalism - preserving the past, and promoting ecologies - are in conflict. Two main parties form among the early settlers and the later revolutionaries: the Reds, who want to preserve Mars in its original pre-human state, and the Greens, who want to terraform it and give it an atmosphere breathable by plants, animals, and humans. They both want independence from Earth's corporations and governments, but for different reasons, and tensions between them increase after the revolution. Another main theme is memory; how it works, or doesn't work, as people grow old. About halfway through Red Mars, a powerful treatment is discovered which enables people to age more slowly and live much longer, but doesn't halt whatever processes cause people to forget things. Several of the original settlers from Red Mars are still alive and still main characters near the end of Blue Mars, but because of cumulative memory loss and continual new experience, they aren't quite the same people.
Robinson handles a large cast of characters well, with deep characterization of about a dozen and many more interesting minor characters. The story is complex, and spans about two hundred years and most of the breadth of the solar system. It's the best-written story of comparable scope I've read in a while.
is a sf novel about music. It's set early in the fourth millenium; there have been wonderful breakthroughs that allow Pluto, the moons of the gas giants, and thousands of small asteroids to be terraformed. The new Master of the Orchestra, a colossal one-man-band instrument invented by the same fellow who developed the theory of physics that led to artificial gravity etc., is making his first system tour, from Pluto inward.
Robinson has said this is not set in the same future history as his short stories "Mercurial" and "Coming Back to Dixieland" (in The Planet on the Table) or the Mars trilogy, despite resemblances. (E.g., there's a political party here called "Green Mars.", and the rolling city on Mercury figures prominently in Blue Mars).
is spead over several centuries
-- at least, so it at first appears, though the first part of the
book turns out to perhaps not be as it first appears. This is not set
in the same future history as The Memory of Whiteness or
the Mars trilogy, though Robinson reuses common elements in each of
these three futures. At
any rate, the second and third parts of the book have to do with
historical and archaeological investigation into a ring of
standing ice-beams found upon Pluto during the first (known)
expedition there. The first part at first appears to have little
to do with the second part -- then appears tightly connected --
then the connection is thrown into doubt -- then things get
weird. Characterization and style are, as usual with Robinson,
A Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson. I've
enjoyed everying else by KSR I've ever read, but... can anyone explain
to me what this was about? A Voyage to Arcturus seems
coherent by comparison.
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