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Author Topic: Red Mars
wetwilly
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I'm reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson--one of those IMPORTANT BOOKS that has been on my list forever and I never got around to (until now). I'm probably 2/3 through it. I'm a little disappointed. It's kind of interesting as a report on how we might colonize Mars (though much of it is outdated, and we now know that a lot of what they find on Mars in the book is not there, but that's easily forgivable; scientific knowledge progresses; that's life) but as a story it's kind of...boring. Dry. Uninteresting characters doing mostly uninteresting things. Not to overstate the case: it's not terrible. There are some mysteries in it that interest me moderately. It's not great, though. Certainly not the GREAT BOOK I expected. I'll plug my way through the rest of it, but definitely will not give any time to the rest of the trilogy.

Anyone else have a reaction to this book? Did anybody here love it? I know there are people who did, and I'm curious about why.

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extrinsic
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The saga was for me unmemorable due to too many grand ideas and themes -- lack of focus. If the Transnat complication were the main one, the saga would be far more memorable and appealing.

Add in the contending ideas about "Red" or "Green" and, subsequently, "Blue" Mars as environmental politics ideas and the saga strays between environmental, social, economics, and governance politics political ideologies with little unity. The personal clashes between personas adds a fifth layer, of personal human interest, though, again, disconnected to the environmental, economics, social, or governance political ideas.

Pick one and develop and connect the others through that one's prominence; instead, the saga settles for a time on one then shifts focus to another without dynamic centering and anchoring of any one. The complication, overall, lacks focus.

[ April 29, 2015, 12:26 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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wetwilly
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Extrinsic, I think you hit the nail on the head. I find it hard to get engaged in this story because it lacks focus. Every time I start getting interested in something, the narrative shifts to something else and abandons the thing I was just starting to get a little interested in.
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extrinsic
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Worth note, Robinson's Mars saga contains many conventions for slice-of-life vignettes, in the vein of James Joyce's Ulysses, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Like those, though, compelling antagonism is hit or miss or absent, and of note, manage dramatic units to less than ideal tension development due to incompleteness of dramatic units and turns.

A dramatic unit -- scene sequence segment, scene, section, subchapter, chapter, whole -- is incomplete until a discovery or revelation and a reversal that influence ongoing transformation take place, all three: discovery, reversal, and sequential transformation. Units that end because of an arbitrary word count limit or one or another -- discovery, reversal, or transformation -- not all three, or on a contrived cliffhanger or mid unit jump transition are unsatisfying and defuse whatever tension the units develop. The Mars saga has a few shortfalls in that completed unit criteria, as do many slice-of-life vignettes, anecdotes, character sketches, and dramas.

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Robert Nowall
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Alas, another classic I haven't yet read...though it came out, I think, just as I was entering the workaday world and the intensity of my reading in fantasy and science fiction started tapering off...in those days, I had less money...now I have less time and interest.
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