Top critical review
Good; but enough already
Reviewed in the United States on January 6, 2011
It is possible to write a fictional work that tops 700 pages. But, it is not easy. Kim Stanley Robinson missed the mark in Blue Mars, the final book of his Mars trilogy. Like the predecessors (Red Mars and Green Mars), the final installment had fantastic moments of political intrigue along with well-researched concepts in geography, physics, economics, and psychology, and neuroscience, among other fields. Robinson was particularly insightful when he drew comparisons (without specific reference) to the Nature Conservancy, cap and trade, and ranked choice voting.
And, like the other books, the majority of the work was excellent.
However, also like the other books, Robinson missed badly at times. There were too many portions of the book that meandered with little advancement of the plot(s). This trend seemed to get worse with each book. The general liberal/socialist preaching also became more obvious with each book, culminating in Blue Mars. I can forgive the latter if the story is good enough. And, for the most part, it is good enough.
The story dragged particularly in wilderness scenes. Clearly, Robinson is fascinated with geology, extreme climates, and climate change. These themes recur frequently in his other books including Antarctica, The Years of Rice and Salt, Fifty Degrees Below, and seemingly everything else Robinson has written. Robinson's imagery could add much to the foreign environment that is Mars. But, eventually I stopped trying to keep up with the vast descriptions. I could also do without endless descriptions of the characters breakfast selections (especially if they are the same items every day!). The vocabulary, while impressive, was dense and distracting at times. Finally, Blue Mars does not stand well on its own without its predecessors. Robinson does not explain character backgrounds well in this book. And, the advances in timelines were choppy and misplaced. Simply put, Robinson could use a good editor.
Fortunately, Robinson brilliantly concluded Blue Mars and the trilogy by, in a limited sense, bringing the story back to its beginnings. After reading 2500+ pages of the Mars trilogy, there was simply not enough left to keep my interest. It was good, but enough already. Blue Mars clearly ran out of steam. One is virtually obligated to read the final installment if one has already read the first two. One should be generally satisfied, but not blown away, by the final chapter.
My Kindle edition of this book was packaged with The Martians. That book is evidently an add-on to the trilogy that features various short stories, poems, and documents related to the trilogy. Other reviewers have described The Martians essentially as "outtakes" from the trilogy. As good as the trilogy was, the first three books contained plenty of items that could have been chopped. I do not think I have the stamina to pour through The Martians.