'-------------------------------------------------- Cascoly Books: Mars Trilogy

Cascoly Books - Mars Trilogy

Maps of Mars from National Geographic


Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Red Mars
  • Green mars
  • Blue Mars

    These books give an incredibly realistic account of the terraforming [areoforming?] of Mars in the mid 21st century. Written in the early 90's the details may be passed by recent Rover and other explorations, but the vivid sense of place amid the weird geology of the red planet makes this trilogy continue to spark thoughts days and weeks after reading it. I used the National Geographic maps of Mars as a reading aide, but found that I started thinking of Mars in terms of Robinson's books, and not just as a fictional construct. [

    Like all great science fiction, the hard science is matched by the explorations into human existence, in this case, following the attempts by many of the 'first hundred' Martian settlers to opt out of the cycle of capitalism and global exploitation that at the time of the books, sees the earth searching desperately for resources off planet.  Various forms of anarchism and communalism are attempted,  hampered always by interference from the global transnationals that run earth.  Red, Green and Blue take on vivid and metaphorical significance as the factions vie for control of the planet. 

    It's interesting to compare Robinson's story of latter day colonialism with the musings of George Orwell on planetary exploration 50 years earlier:

    When you have got this planet of ours perfectly into trim, you start upon the enormous task of reaching and colonising another. But this is merely to push the objective further into the future; the objective itself remains the same. Colonise another planet, and the game of mechanical progress begins anew; for the fool­proof world you have substituted the foolproof solar system-the foolproof universe.


    From Green Mars:

    The land they were crossing now was dominated by crater rings, the newer ones overlapping and even burying older ones. "This is called saturation crate ring. Very ancient ground." A lot of the craters had no raised rims at all, but were simply shallow flat-bottomed round holes in the ground. "What happened to the rims?"
    "Worn away."
    "By what?"
    "Ann says ice, and wind. She says as much as a kilometer was stripped off the southern highlands over time."
    "That would take away everything!"
    "But then more came back. This is old land."
    In between craters the land was covered with loose rock, and it was unbelievably uneven; there were dips, rises, hollows, knolls, trenches, grabens, uplifts, hills and dales; never even a moment's flatness, except on crater rims and occasional low ridges, both of which Coyote used as roads when he could. But the track he followed over this lumpy landscape was still tortuous, and Nirgal could not believe it was memorized. He said as much, and Coyote laughed. "What do you mean memorized? We're lost!"
    But not really, or not for long. A mohole plume appeared over the horizon, and Coyote drove for it.
    "Knew it all along," he muttered. "This is Vishniac mohole. It's a vertical shaft a kilometer across, dug straight down into the -bedrock. There were four moholes started around the seventy-five degree latitude line, and two of them are no longer occupied, even by robots. Vishniac is one of the two, and it's been taken over by a bunch of Bogdanovists who live down inside it." He laughed. "It's a wonderful idea, because they can dig into the side wall along the road to the bottom, and down there they can put out as much heat as they want and no one can tell that it's not just more mohole outgassing. So they can build anything they like, even process uranium for reactor fuel rods. It's an entire little industrial city now. Also one of my favorite places, very big on partying."

    Scientist as Hero

    But no. That was analogy rather than homology. What in the I humanities they would call a heroic simile, if he understood the ( term, or a metaphor, or some other kind of literary analogy. And I analogies were mostly meaningless-a matter of phenotype rather than genotype (to use another analogy). Most of poetry and liter­ature, really all the humanities, not to mention the social sciences, were phenotypic as far as Sax could tell. They added up to a huge compendium of meaningless analogies, which did not help to ex­plain things, but only distorted perception of them. A kind of continuous conceptual drunkenness, one might say. Sax himself much preferred exactitude and explanatory power,'and why not? If it was 200 Kelvin outside why not say so, rather than talk about witches' I tits and the like, hauling the whole great baggage of the ignorantIpast along to obscure every encounter with sensory reality? It was absurd.

    So, okay, there was no such thing as cultural polyploidy. There was just a determinate historical situation, the consequence of all that had come before-the decisions made, the results spreading ,out over the planet in complete disarray, evolving, or one should I say developing, without a plan. Planless. In that regard there was a similarity between history and evolution, in that both of them were matters of contingency and accident, as well as patterns of development. But the differences, particularly in time scales, were I so gross as to make that similarity nothing more than analogy again. I No, better to concentrate on homologies, those structural sim­Iilarities that indicated actual physical relationships, that really ex­p!ained something. This of course took one back into science. But after an encounter with Phyllis, that was just what he wanted. .

    So he dove back into studying plants. Many of the fellfield Organisms he was finding had hairy leaves, and very thick leaf surfaces, which helped protect the plants from the harsh UV blast of Martian sunlight. These adaptations could very well be examples of homologies, in which species with the same ancestors had all kept family traits. Or they could be examples of convergence, in which species from separate phyla had come to the same forms through functional necessity. And these days' they could also be simply the result of bioengineering, the breeders adding the same I traits to different plants in order to provide the same advantages



    Annals of the Former World -- - John McPhee
    describes geology in lucid terms, and makes the topic come alive.  This book is structured as a journey across the US at the 40th parallel, describing the geology as he travels, but it becomes much more than just a bare scientific description.  McPhee is one of our best writers. I've read many of McPhee's articles in the New Yorker that form the basis of this book, and they're excellent.

    Oddly, the only books that envision the power of tectonic events as well are the Mars Trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson


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