Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.
On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.
While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).
Blue Mars won the Locus Sci-Fi award in 1997, holding off stiff competition from Simmons’ Endymion and two fine Bujold novels (Memory and Cetaganda).
I was reading Blue Mars while my wife was in labour. As she dozed under the effects of an epidural, I was sprawled across some piled up beanbags, working my way through this final instalment of Robinson’s terraforming epic. I finished it up while waiting for my wife and newborn son to be released and as such it will forever remain etched on my heart.
Having read the entire Mars Trilogy back-to-back, I found Blue Mars to be a maddening and melancholy yet powerfully memorable book.
The blurb on the back is misleading. It sets the scene for Blue Mars to be a showdown between Mars and Earth. That storyline does slowly grow in stature throughout the book, but it never really dominates proceedings and climaxes with a whimper – it’s probably the weakest strand of the story.
The whole book is a melancholy affair. If Red Mars represented dreams crashing down, and Green Mars portrayed a new world being built up, then Blue Mars is about achieving a sustainable plateau. The characters are old, their memories are going, their goals have mostly been achieved and they don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s all a bit too reflective and listless to be truly gripping.
In the same way that the introduction of Nirgal in Green Mars seemed to give the series a fresh dimension, I felt the arrival of the hedonistic young Zo Boone in Blue Mars could really add something sparking and fun. As such, I was extremely disappointed that she was killed off so quickly.
And yet (I find myself saying) and yet! Despite these frustrating flaws, it is a fitting closure to the series which I shall remember in details for years to come. Over the course of three books I’ve come to treasure the character, Sax Russell, and for him to finally earn the love of his nemesis put a big goofy smile on my face. Throughout the first two books Maya Toitovana’s mood swings meant she grated as much as she enthralled me – but by the end of book three she’s reached a place of self-acceptance through her love of dramatic tragedy that made me want to hug her tightly.
I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this series one day, or not. It’s a hard old slog – but much like hiking the Appalachian trail, a journey that won’t be easily forgotten.
After this I read: The Graveyard Book