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Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:17 am
by Omphalos

What one word best describes Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, or for that matter, the entire Mars trilogy? I'm not sure that there is only one word that can be used. But if there is, could it be something like "brilliant," or "genius?" How about "overwritten," or "ponderous?" I think that Red Mars is all these things. Robinson's Mars trilogy is an epic Utopian piece, wherein all the brilliant scientists who populate the story try to work through, on Mars, all of the things that devil our Earth-based society of today. In it Robinson presumes all the usual Earth-bound problems, such as uncontrolled capitalism, severe resource depletion and environmental catastrophe. But by keeping the focus firmly on Mars, which Earth wants as nothing more than a vassal, he tests the patience of Earth as a few renegade Martians make their own plans, many of which exclude the mother planet. So yes, to be sure, words like "brilliant" and "genius" and "ponderous" and "overwritten" do apply to this book. "Epic" certainly belongs in the mix too. Red Mars on its own may be about creating one's own future in the face of a powerful opponent who wants what you have. Or it's about the the ills of social darwinism. I'm not sure which, but I don't think that it matters in the end. Whatever else it is, first and foremost it is probably the most scientifically-passionate tale of colonization that is, or ever will be...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review..

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:54 pm
by SandChigger
Do any of the Mars books you've read address the issue of physiological changes/adaptations caused by the lower gravity environment?

I was wondering because the other night when I was surfing through the channels I came across a continuous airing of the last six (of 12) episodes of that cup-noodle Freedom OVA animé. (I think I've mentioned it before. Have watched the first six but not the last. Didn't bother watching them this time, either.) Your review of the Haldeman book calls it Y.A., which I kinda gathered from looking at the description on Amazon a few minutes ago, and reminded me of the show, which is primarily aimed at a young teen audience.

One of the things that made me lose interest in the animé was the unrealistic treatment of life on the lunar surface, particularly the gravity issue. (When they're outside the colony characters bounce around as you might expect, but inside you'd think they were on Earth.) Mars gravity is about 0.37 gees. (The Moon's is less than half that.) It remains to be seen whether long-term settlement in such an environment is even feasible. (I don't believe we still have a definitive answer as to how gestation and growth are effected by zero- or low-gee. Anyone know?)

I wouldn't be surprised if we don't need something closer to Earth-normal gravity for healthy, long-term (reproductively viable) settlement.

Anyway...still haven't got these books but still plan to. (Still a bit leery of him after those years and years of rice and salt. ;) )

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 9:48 pm
by Omphalos
Most of the books set in a micro- or a macro-gravity environment since the late 1960's have gotten the lifestyle issues right. Larry Niven was the first one to sit down and figure it out (with the help of newly released NASA findings on the subject), though writers like Heinlein dealt with the topic before. Mars has been written about so much in the past though that you really have to seek out a writer who has a talent for scientific realism, and who has published since the 70's. Haldeman is another one who gets it right. Hal Clement deals with the issue a lot and gets it right. Robinson does not ignore it, but gives it short shrift. By the time he wrote this book in the early 90's it was passe to dwell on the effects of microgravity, save to mention it as a reason for a changed exercise regimen and time in spun hulls.

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 9:54 pm
by SandChigger
Exercise and spun hulls are fine for people in space, but what do they do for people on the surface of a low-gee planet?

(Should we move this to another thread? ;) )

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 10:17 pm
by Omphalos
Well, there's not too much with the Mars stories, so i thought I would suggest some other ideas. I cannot remember reading any book where it was a central problem. Its just such a given that I don't remember it popping up too much. With individuals the problem is calcium loss, bone weakness and muscle atrophy, and occasionally psychological problems. When you get into successive generations, then you start talking about lengthening limbs, opposite thumbs on feet (:wink: ), etc.

Like I said before, Niven has dealt with it in The Smoke Ring and its sequel. He also dealt with it in the Known Space series, both on Mars and in his Belter colonies. Honestly though, I think Niven's Mars colonies failed pretty early. I am not sure I remember any specific Mars books.

Robinson does it with lengthy exercise regimens, and with advanced medical sciences. Others do it with calcium replacement and exercises. NOt sure I remember anyone having the problem of getting infants to do push-ups though. :wink:

In Man Plus they make all kinds of modifications to Torroway, and resolving that problem is one of them.

Bova's Mars is about a Mission, not a colony, so they just do some exercises and screw a lot.

In Moving Mars I cant recall it coming up. Bear is pretty good on his science though, so he may mention it.

Haldeman talk about it in Marsbound.

All the others are pre-Niven and pulp.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 5:05 am
by SandChigger
Cheers. Above and beyond, as usual. :)

Psychological problems hadn't occurred to me; taller progeny had. ;)


PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 11:39 am
by Omphalos
Niven had an advanced (?) degree in psychology, and it feels like he got the psychological stuff down right. His Mars stories are all, IIRC, in short stories. In his stories there were native Martians left, and they kept destroying the air tents that humans stayed under, so there was that added stress.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 3:45 pm
by SandChigger

I notice Bova has three Mars books as well. I like the archaeologist slant (I thought the job sounded cool but never wanted to be one as a boy ;) ), but anything with "native Martians" in it that are other than microbial is out for me.

(I still have very fond memories of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, though. :lol: )

(I mean, I forget, but how many millions of years has it been since Mars was capable of supporting advanced life...six or sixty? Either way, an intelligent species capable of it would have to the little blue planet next door?...and adapted themselves or the new planet. No?)

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 2:48 am
by tanzeelat
Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
White Mars - Brian Aldiss
Rainbow Mars - Larry Niven