Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Very good book about 100 people who are chosen to be the first group to colonize Mars. The first 75 pages or so describe the initial journey out within the spacecraft. This section is admittedly a little slow as the reader really just wants to get to the actual landing and beginning of the colonization process. The main characters are gradually introduced, a mixture of mostly American and Russian scientists intermingled with a few others representing Japan and India. Once we get to the landing on the planet, Robinson really shines as he describes as only his brilliant scientific mind can, the geographic characteristics of the planet. Intertwined with the scientific descriptions is a wonderfully compelling story as we are treated to the political struggle that takes place between the different factions chosen to be the first on Mars. There are those who do not wish to see Mars changed at all and will go to any lengths to see that nothing is done to alter the planet's atmosphere and landscape. Yet there is also an even more powerful group whose driving purpose is to terraform the wild planet and make it habitable for future generations. Some of the scenes dealing with the political arguments and struggles between the colonists are extremely intense and touch upon sensitive issues of religion, yet it is handled in a way that never seems judgmental or preachy. Yes, this is a story about the colonization of Mars but at its heart, it is a book about society and the struggle between conflicting ideologies. Robinson has always been a master at getting to the essence of personal conflict and the motivations behind that conflict. Red Mars truly is a multi-dimensional book that entertains on so many different levels. It is easy to see why this book won the Nebula award for best science-fiction novel.
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Friday, July 17, 2015
So this is a post a long time in the making. A little backstory first: I began reading George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series while working at the now-defunct Borders Books in the late 90's. I remember reading Game of Thrones and being absolutely blown away. The writing was crisp, intense, and incredibly smart for a fantasy novel. The next two novels were just as riveting and came out in fairly quick succession. At the time I believed that I was in for an incredible ride and couldn't wait for a new book in the series to be released. What I didn't foresee is that my waiting would become an exercise in unbelievable patience as Feast for Crows took about four years to be published. Ok, I thought, Mr. Martin is probably very busy with the gaining popularity of the books as people realized just how great a series this was. He's probably doing a lot of appearances and book-signings I thought, surely he'll get back on track and release the next book within a year or two. And then the next wait began; a year, two years, three, four, five passed with no new book. Finally Dance with Dragons was released after what felt like a long prison sentence. My frustration has now grown to epic proportions as the HBO series has taken even more of Mr. Martin's time as he edits and re-edits the writing for the TV show while allowing the future books to suffer and remain unpublished. I keep hearing from George Martin fan boys and girls that "greatness takes time" and "you're just an instant gratification guy" and maybe I am to a certain extent. But what I also believe is that an author should have a degree of respect for their readers. The fact that this series that I started in 1997 now has only five books completed in 2015, when there were already three completed by the end of 2000, is just flat-out unacceptable in my opinion. And the saddest part of this whole thing is that A Song of Ice and Fire is such a tremendous series that showcases a writer at the top of his game who could do no wrong with me ten years ago. Alas, I am not in that place anymore and I must let you go George RR Martin. I cannot wait another 7-8 years for a new book in this series to be released. Frankly, the untimely death of Robert Jordan, followed by a mediocre ending of the series by Brandon Sanderson, should show us all how important it is for an author to finish what he or she started with minimal delay. We were robbed of a great ending to the Wheel of Time and I don't want to see the same thing happen with A Song of Ice and Fire. However, at the snail's pace that these books are coming out, I fear an unsatisfactory conclusion may be on the horizon for this once-great series. Whether it be because Mr. Martin has bitten off more than he can chew and can't finish it properly himself, or God-forbid something more serious as with Robert Jordan. Whatever the case, I'm sorry George. I really wanted to like you but I can't read your books anymore. My time is far too precious and I'll read books from other authors that don't take two presidential terms to be released.