In the 1990s Kim Stanley Robinson published three hard science fiction novels that have captured my attention and never quite let go. Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars make up the Mars trilogy. To say that the trilogy is about human exploration, colonization and eventual terraforming of the red planet is to do it a huge disservice. Science certainly, but psychology, sociology, politics — all of these elements are played out over 200 years of narrative through the intensely personal points of view of Robinson’s characters. Robinson owns this world completely, and is able to compose a compelling science fiction story to talk about our world in a meaningful way.
For his efforts, Robinson has received the highest awards given to science fiction authors. Each of the three novels were nominated for multiple awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, Campbell and British Science Fiction Awards. Red Mars won the Nebula award in 1993. Green Mars won the Hugo award in 1994. Blue Mars won the Hugo award in 1997.
I tore through these novels over ten years ago. And in recent weeks I have found myself wanting to go back to them again. Perhaps it is the unprecedented success of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Or the troubled political state of the direction of manned spaceflight to Mars from NASA. I know I will never go to Mars myself — and so I do the next best thing. I open a tried and true time/space teleporter, the novel. And it takes me there effortlessly.
I’ve used this device to travel to Mars before. Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Carter took me there when I was a kid. Robert Heinlein and “Poddy” Fries took me there in high school. I went with Dan Simmons not that long ago. Now I’m going back. I’ll rejoin the First Hundred: John Boone, Frank Chalmers, Arkady Bogdanov, Ann Clayborne, Hiroko Ai and the ever-phlegmatic Saxifrage Russell. I will scale the Olympus Mons. And I will witness a new world born through toil and care and violence.