The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson is without a doubt a must for anyone who loves to read or write about this planet. Certainly it is a huge work from many points of view.
This first book focuses on the first colonization of the planet imagined in the very near future in respect of our present, while the book was written back in 1993. Then it continues in a time span of several decades describing the beginning of a terraforming project.
On the one hand we see the usual optimism of this kind of science fiction to imagine an event of titanic proportions in a relatively short time, which will certainly be denied by the facts. Beyond that, you can hardly call this book a novel. Sure, there are characters and their stories, linked with each other, but from a narrative point of view it seems more like a series of episodes, shown from different points of views, giving us a choral narration, in which there isn't a true protagonist if not Mars itself.
The individual stories, however, appear to be just an excuse for the author's attempt to immerse himself in other fields, mostly scientific ones, although he often tends to lead to sociology, politics, and even psychology. The result is a book that tends to look more like a speculative treaty than a true novel. The characters suffer about that, thus ending up in the margins. Most of them are not making much to be loved. I admit that I had trouble to get fond to them. The only one I really liked is Frank, maybe because I have found him the most human one, with his virtues and especially with his flaws. Too bad he was then hit by the karma of some too politically correct American stories, according to which, if you do something reprehensible, and at the end you have to pay somehow.
The book is still for the most part interesting, especially if you're looking for an in-depth pseudoscientific study. At the base of speculation there is a very accurate science, the result of considerable research. Perhaps the worst problem of this book is to have wanted to exceed in this sense, focusing too much on technical aspects at the expense of fiction.
In some parts I got bored and I skipped many pages. I do not regret it. At one point, in the part of the expedition narrated by the psychologist, the author leaves for a tangent with a very boring and unnecessary psychological disquisition. When the scope was more purely scientific, I read it with interest.
One thing that jars is the desire to be obsessively accurate from a scientific perspective and then expand without limits into the speculative part, arriving in my opinion to exceed.
The finale ends in catastrophism, an argument that I cannot generally stand, not only in the narrative, leaving you with a bad taste in the mouth, because the mood of the story starts with an optimistic base to arrive in a crescendo of drama to an excessive epilogue.
Having to give an overall opinion, it is undoubtedly a remarkable book, but not an easy read, due to its complexity and length. Certainly, however, it leaves you with something.
Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) on Amazon.com.