Reading this book right on the heels of James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes was an interesting juxtaposition. This book is hard SF. Hard as a friggin' rock. There were times that Robinson would drone on and on about scientific things that I'd never heard of or even imagined in my life, and he would do this for page after page. Luckily these days I read most of my books with my ears. If I were reading with my eyes, I might have grown bored and given up, but since I'm trapped in my car for 45 minutes whether I listen to a book or not, I tend to just continue listening.
After Corey's book about space wars in a solar system populated by the Outer Planets Alliance, the Martian Congressional Republic, and the United Nations of Earth, it was really interesting to listen to an account of the settling of Mars, and the attempts to terraform the planet. Robinson goes into great detail on the geography of Mars too, talking endlessly about places like Valles Marineris, Pavonis Mons, and the Tharsis Bulge. It makes me want to know more about that Martian geography. It makes me wonder what countries in a colonized Mars would be called. I think they mentioned in Corey's book that Alex, the ship's pilot, came from the Mariner Valley. Also we had a story on the Dunesteef called "The Road to Utopia Plain" by Rick Kennett, which is another one of those Martian places...I believe, anyway.
Despite the dense nature of this book, I still really enjoyed it. It's pretty hard not to, really, being a kid raised on Star Wars and Ray Bradbury and similar stuff. I love nothing more than the idea of humans living on other worlds. The idea of Mars with a big blue ocean (although they're nowhere close to that at the end of this first book) is so neat to me. I looked online and found several artist's renderings of what Mars might look like if it were terraformed.
Ones like this:
or this one here, which is really just a contour map, but the colors show you what is lowest, and depending on how much water there was, that's what would be ocean bottom:
This really fires my imagination. I've been building a space opera universe in my mind for years, and now it's definitely going to include a terraformed Mars. Maybe a terraformed Venus too. Hell, maybe even the moon as well. A thousand years in the future, they should be pretty skilled at terraforming, right?
Anyway, what's my verdict on this book? Well, I think it takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy it. If you like hard SF then you'll probably love it. There's still story and characters and so forth in there, it's not like it's a textbook or something, but a lot of readers might find it incredibly dull. There were definitely parts that bored me. But all in all, I really liked the book, and will be proceeding on to the next one in the series, Green Mars.
Not immediately though. First I've got a Robert J. Sawyer book, Wake, to read. I've read short stories by Sawyer, so I'm excited to see what he can do in a novel. Also, I want to read part two of James S. A. Corey's Expanse series before I go back to Robinson's Mars for part two. Luckily, my commute is so long, that it won't take me long to get to them all.