Top positive review
Sprawling story of Free Mars after the Revolution
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2021
"Blue Mars" completes the trilogy, covering the years 2127-2225, following the Second Mars Revolution. There is no dramatic conclusion to the plot as there was in "Red Mars" and "Green Mars," both of which culminate in a revolution, but there is a satisfying resolution to the lives of several of the main characters. My review mentions some highlights which might be seen as plot spoilers, but I don't believe they spoil much, since it is the process and finer-grained details which matter most.
The story is sprawling, with many scenes and episodes from over a century. There are quests -- Sax pursuing Ann, Nirgal searching for his mother Hiroki, Maya wrestling with what happened with Boone and Frank in "Red Mars," and Ann being shown the new settlements on the Jovian moons and even moons of Uranus (which is a thread KSR picks up on in his later "2312"). And of course there is more politics and more ecology.
The book opens with a threat of civil war with the Reds. A Constitutional Convention is held, and the starting point is the Dorsa Brevia Conference document of the underground in "Green Mars." Nadia and Art facilitate. Nadia is eventually drafted to serve as President of the new Executive Council, and so she becomes the first President of Free Mars. Workplace democracy in workers' cooperatives is a cornerstone. Vlad, the ecologist who is one of the First Hundred, gives a speech: "If democracy and self-rule are fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter the workplace?" ... The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all." (143)
Later Sax ponders politics: "After repeated experiments it had become clear -- on Mars at least -- that all these contradictory goals could be best achieved in polyarchy, a complex system in which power was distributed out to a great number of institutions. In theory, this network of distributed power, partly centralized and partly decentralized, created the greatest amount of individual freedom and collective good, by maximizing the amount of control that an invididual had over his or her life." (434)
A Martian historian of the 2170s writes a multi-volume "analytical metahistory," proposing a long-term movement from primate dominant hierarchies to democracy, and says Free Mars represents the move to a post-capitalist socioeconomic system she calls the Democratic Age, with a reduced level of hierachy on the way toward ultimate "harmony." This is a reworking of Marx's reworking of Hegel's dialectic of history, though KSR does not mention it.
A delegation from Mars (Sax, Maya, Michel the psychologist, and Nirgal) travel to Earth to work out a new Mars-Earth treaty after the Second Revolution, with Maya taking the lead. Nirgal speaks boldly for Mars helping Earth, which is in crisis. He hikes in a surprisingly ice-filled Alps, surprising since KSR has not indicated that Earth has stopped global warming, and suffers sickness since he was born on Mars, which has .38 of Earth's gravity.
Terraforming/areaforming has continued to the point of creating an ocean in the north -- Oceanus Borealis -- which covers 25% of the Martian surface. It is created through geoengineering, based on the presence of ice which can be broken up and thawed with the rising temperature. This leads to Maya taking an absurdly long boat ride on Mars.
Drawing on biology, chemistry, and ecology, soil is created. Nirgal works a plot of land at one point and we see the difficulties of Martian agriculture. We jump from lichens and tundra plants to forests and large animals including polar bears.
We see some of the new Martian ecology through Nirgal's journeys as he takes up blimp-gliding, joins a feral group, and becomes a long-distance runner.
*** *** ***
The remaining members of the First Hundred are over 200 years old by the end of "Blue Mars" thanks to Vlad's longevity treatments.
The lyrical and poignant ending sees Sax, Ann, Maya, Nadia, Art, and Nirgal peaceful and content after their long adventures.