After reading Red Mars, I started its sequel, Green Mars (1994), with some trepidation, having asked myself about the author (Kim Stanley Robinson): “Will he keep on demonstrating his technical and research prowess or really write a story we can dig into?” The answer is that Robinson does better in Green Mars, but that it still falls somewhere in between a geographical treatise on Mars and a good story.
My guess is that Robinson is trying to be too many things at once. Scientist, mystic, philosopher, politician, sociologist, social commentator, prophet—he attempts them all. His novel contains all the technical detail and description one could want in a book about a planet on which no one lives and about technology that doesn’t exist. He also tries to show the development of a new planetary culture and religion influenced by the environmental conditions of Mars, including the catastrophic and cold weather and the reduced gravity. At times, he espouses a utopian vision of human social life; at others, an over-riding cynicism about corporations, governments, and the money that drives them both; and, sometimes, a realist’s conception of the strengths and weaknesses of mass public movements. Psychologist is the weakest side Robinson displays, yet Green Mars manages to have a couple of relatively compelling characters, though he doesn’t develop them fully.
As a story, Green Mars is an improvement over Red Mars, but nevertheless lacks human spirit; Robinson tries to rely on how cool it is to be in the future and on a new planet. To his credit, most of the technology and the future extrapolation are within the realm of the possible, perhaps even likely, and certainly he tries not to violate any physical laws that we presently believe. Scientist is the role with which Robinson seems most at home and “hard” science fiction fans will probably love—or already have loved—these books.