Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Red Mars 6.9

Red Mars is the near-future history of the colonization and early terraforming of mars. We follow a team of carefully chosen specialists as they begin to set up home and tame the planet.

The novel comes highly recommended and has won numerous awards. The praise is due for the scientific realism of the story and the pragmatic way in which events unfold.

The writer is obviously a fan of Arthur C Clarke (there is even a space elevator) and has been careful to avoid some of Clarkes weaknesses in character development and dialogue. Unfortunately, the author errs by going too far in the other direction. We get pages of relationship gossip and description of the sex lives of the crew.

The main impression I got was of plodding boredom and little tension. There is a passage of hundreds of pages where the main character John Boone drives around in a slow land vehicle visiting people and talking about sabotage and politics. This bored me to the point of almost not persevering. The descriptions of the features of the martian landscape are over full at times. I found myself thinking "OK, we get it. You've done your research. Now get on with my story!"

The manner in which the vested business interests back on Earth treat the growing independence movement is treated well but overall there is too much sociology and political lecturing. I feel that the big US awards were given for the parallels with the history of US independence and not for the quality of the writing and plot.

A good editor could have tightened this up to become a classic. Alas life is too short for me to continue trudging through this uninspiring geology lecture. Don't believe the hype.

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