The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Life on Mars - A Review of Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and some Podcasting News...

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)

Not long ago, I was spouting on Facebook about one of the books I was reading when fellow musician and Sci-Fi fan, Bill Truelove asked me if I had ever read Red Mars.  I had not and while I am always open to look at new things, I figured I would give it a try.  Bill gave me further advice telling me that I need to savor this book and pay close attention to the characters.  If you have not read Red Mars and think you might, please be sure to keep Bill’s advice in mind because this is no casual read.  It is a masterpiece that explores all aspects of the colonization of another planet by humans, if such a thing were ever to happen.  Red Mars is the first of three novels that deals with humans migrating to another planet and attempting to set up an entirely new society apart from earth-bound humanity.

Beginning in the year 2026, the story begins with a joint American-Russian mission to the planet Mars to see about the possibilities of colonization of the planet.  A giant ship called the Ares (I thought it was cool that the author chose the name of the Greek god of war as the name of the ship to travel to the planet that sports the Roman god of war’s name) which is constructed from spent Shuttle external fuel tanks that have been boosted into orbit rather than returned to earth for reuse as fuel tanks.  The ship’s crew is made up by the “First Hundred” people to colonize the planet.  The expedition consists of people from varying science and engineering disciplines.

The First hundred set up the first settlement on Mars using the resources that are provided by the planet itself along with the limited equipment and supplies they brought with them.  Ne the first settlement is established, the process of colonization starts as the First Hundred divide into factions that represent numerous points of view about what the eventual outcome of this effort is to be.

While there are differences of opinion as to whether the planet should be terraformed, a governmental entity known as UNOMA (United Nations Organization Mars Authority) decides that in view of the political, social, and economic conditions on Earth, terraforming should be made a reality.  Also, while governments become weaker on earth, large corporations called TransNats (short for Trans Nationals) begin to vie with each other and with the Martian colonies for the use of resources.  

As they work to thicken the atmosphere and warm up the planet, an asteroid is captured and set into synchronous orbit around Mars with the use of a long cable, thus allowing more and more people to emigrate to the planet.  As the population grows so does the unrest as many factions attempt to assert their visions of what the planet should be socially.  After a time, this leads to a rebellion against the First Hundred and they are slowly killed off.  The Asteroid is caused to crash into Mars, and this along with the use of nuclear devices causes underground caches of water to be released and flooding the planet violently.

The last of the First Hundred make their way through many perils as a result of the flooding and the torrents that accompany them.  Finally they arrive at underground caverns.


The real focus of the story is on the characters.  Within each part, there is massive character development while the author explores what makes them tick.  Some of the main characters include:

John Boone: American astronaut and the first person to step on Mars six years before the story begins.  His immortal first words as he stepped on Mars are “well, here we are.”    He is a larger than life character who has the ability to sway others to his way of thinking.

Frank Chalmers:  Head of the American contingent and rival in many ways to Boone.  Chalmers is responsible for the assassination of Boone.

Nadia Chernyshevski: A very talented engineer who is responsible for much of the infrastructural improvements on the planet’s surface.  She avoids conflicts and concentrates on work.

Arkady Bogdanov: A mechanical engineer and anarchist.  He leads the team that engineers Phobos and is considered by many to be a trouble maker.

Sax Russell: Leader of the movement to terraform Mars.

Ann Clayborne: A geologist who, in direct opposition to Sax, advocates leaving Mars the way it was  when people first landed.

These are by no means all of the characters, but these are among the most important.


Many of the themes in the book are the same as the ones that we face today, and have faced throughout history.  One theme that stands out is the conflict of whether to adapt the planet to human habitation or whether to make humans adapt to the environment.  Indeed, environmentalism is a theme that is very present today in our own lives.  So if we do somehow find the means to travel to Mars and begin colonization, do we have the right to change an entire planet to suit our needs?  Assuming that there is no indigenous life already on the planet, should we, if we are able to, make the atmosphere thicker, release large quantities of water by crashing asteroids into the planet and melting the polar ice cap?  I don’t see why not, but when I consider the factors such as the way Mars is constantly bombarded with radiation because of the lack of a magnetic field such as we enjoy on the Earth, it would seem impossible for that reason alone.

Also, if Mars were to be colonized, where would the seat of government lie?  Would the Red Planet be governed from Millions of miles away, or would the people who colonize mars decide what sort of government, if any they want.  I think Robinson hits the nail on the head when he speculated that corporate influences would do their best to make every attempt to have their say on what happens to with the exploitation of the resources on another planet.  There would eventually be a revolution by the people on the planet to exert their independence, just as colonists did in our own American history.

In any case, Red Mars is a good story, no matter where you fall in the philosophical spectrum.  It will give one cause to think, but this is not a book to be read quickly.  The author doesn’t lay everything out for the reader to simply digest; one has to think while reading this book.  The science is well researched, the characters are well developed, and there is every element that makes a good story that a reader can relate to.

Podcasting News

In my last several posts, I have neglected to plug my friends and their Sci-Fi podcasts that are very good and fun to listen to.  With the recent release of Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters, Trek fans are debating the issues, and so are the podcasters.

On the most recent release of the Scifi Diner Podcast, Scott, Miles, and M are joined by David Moulton from the Lancast Podcast, and myself for a review as well as a debate of many points of the movie we liked, and some points that gave us trouble.  Later we are joined by Troy Heinritz pops in live with his list of Trek movies and justifications for his favorite to least favorite.  Also chiming in on the discussion with recorded remarks is Colin from the Trek News and Views podcast.  Mary the Televixen also checks in with some very astute remarks.

Another good discussion of the latest incarnation of Star Trek is from Trek News and Views.  Colin and friends discuss many aspects of the film including the logic of why certain things are done.  This podcast is sure to cause you to rethink taking Into Darkness at face value.

Starbase 66 with Rick, Kennedy, Unkk, and special guest Rich from the Simply Syndicated Podcasting Network discuss Into Darkness.  They look at the film from an intellectual point of view, but there are a lot of laughs as you listen to this.  It was especially fun to listen as Rich, who seemed ready to say that it was the best film ever rethinks as the plot holes and incongruities were presented.  I was also privileged to have my recorded remarks included in this show.

Finally, I would like to promote a new podcast that has just been started built around the upcoming mini series presentation of Stephen King's Under The Dome.  My friends Wayne Henderson and Troy Heinritz are hosting the Under The Dome Radio Podcast centering around the miniseries to begin airing on CBS on June 24th.  Here's your chance to get in on the ground floor and follow along as the show airs.  The first episode is out; a fifteen minute introduction of what to expect from Under the Dome.

So, read Red Mars and listen to podcasts.  Both are great entertainment.

 Well, there it is…

I am Kahless…