Mars in fiction

image: NASA

Alison Flood at The Guardian has listed Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Three Colours Mars” as her favourite representation of the planet in fiction.

I too love this trilogy; I love the way the planet is portrayed in Red Mars. It is a completely alien landscape yet rather than focus on how barren, bleak and ugly it is, Robinson makes it feel very much alive. Flood comments that she fell in love with his description of the Martian sunrise. I remember that passage very well and it sticks with you right through the trilogy even while Robinson lovingly portrays the topography of the planet.

In the second book Green Mars, the old Martian landscape is changing as the terraforming is well under way. Plants are growing but the atmosphere is not quite breathable yet and it is still bitterly and dangerously cold. It is toward the end of this book that science gives way to politics as the first borns of Mars and their subsequent generations start to ask questions about their place in humanity. They are increasingly having zero loyalty to Earth and campaigning for independence.

This is at the forefront of the story for the final part Blue Mars as the Martians, now several generations down the line, are pushing for independence from Earth and looking to create a new society not born of the old values of Earth. Mars is a new planet, a new society for a new future, not just a colony of Earth through which humanity exploits its resources.

Mars is our nearest neighbour and as such it has always held a fascination for scientists and fiction writers alike. Back in the 19th century, people speculated about the life that might have existed there and the nature of its environments. From H.G. Wells to the present day, we continue to speculate about the planet.

In the 1950s, Ray Bradbury wrote the critically acclaimed and popular The Martian Chronicles (a book I have discussed numerous times on this blog) about the colonisation of the red planet and an eventual exodus back to earth. Gregory Benford’s The Martian Race is an adventure about a race to settle Mars first between a team from North America and a Europe-Asia alliance. I found it mildly interesting, if a little soulless. But then at the time I read it, I had just finished the KSR trilogy so nothing was going to hold a candle to that.

Feel free to discuss your favourites.

2 thoughts on “Mars in fiction

  1. I don’t have a fascination with Mars, and have actually read very little fiction set on that planet. However, with Curiosity’s recent landing, I see the plausibility of colonization in the near future. Funny, though, I still don’t want to read fiction set on Mars. It’s not that I don’t want to read it, I’m just not drawn to it.

    • I think it has almost been done to death but if you ever read one story set on Mars, KSR’s is the one you should read.

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