“Mars was empty before we came. That’s not to say that nothing had ever happened….”

Can it be? Bureau42 has never reviewed the SF novel of the 1990s?

If you haven’t read Red Mars, the first of Kim Stanley Robinson’s celebrated Mars trilogy, go out and buy it now. Because it begins in years most of us should live to see, it will become dated in our lifetime. Right now, especially right now, we can believe it will happen.

General Information

Title: Red Mars.

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Original Publication Date: February 1993

ISBN: 0-553-56073-5

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Cover Price $6.99 U.S. $8.99 Canadian


A murder on the terraformed, colonized Mars, later in this century, becomes the grounds to recall the planet’s settlement by one hundred (and more) colonists. We see the effects of science, politics, population growth, and the wild card of humanity on future history.

High Points:

Where do I start? Robinson juggles believable characters, plausible science, and credible politics along with the need to tell an interesting story. Remember when you were a kid, and Sf adventures seemed like they could be our future? This book recaptured that sense for me. Yes, I know aspects of the book seem far-fetched. In particular, Coyote and Hiroko Ai’s plottings contain a strong element of the swashbuckler. So what? This extraordinary book kept me reading, and made me want to believe in its characters and story.

I also applaud Robinson for referencing the entire past lore surrounding the Red Planet. We even get a “green person” of sorts.

Low Points:

I’m not certain there would ever be a “pro-red” faction (colonists who want Mars to remain basically unchanged), but I’ll let that go.

The sequels aren’t quite as good as the first; they get bogged down a bit in ideological discussion. They’re still worth reading.

The Scores

Originality: 5/6

Story: 6/6

Characterization: 6/6 I’ve met a few of the sort of people Robinson describes, the sort of people who would colonize Mars. I’m not one of them, but Robinson gets them right, and more importantly, gives his principals depth.

Imagery: 6/6 I’ve never been to Mars, but I’m left with the impression that Robinson has.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Editing: 6/6.

Overall Score: 6/6.

In total, Red Mars receives 41/42

Additional Comments:

Red Mars won the 1993 Nebula for best novel. It was nominated for the Hugo, but that went instead to Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang.