So the other week I was reading the classic SF novel Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson:
As one might expect, Red Mars is about, yes, Mars, specifically, the human inhabitation and terraforming thereof, beginning with 100 colonists in the year 2026. Hmm. (checks watch) I don’t think we’re going to make it.
Now, in addition to being very hard science fiction, Red Mars is very much a “no matter where you go, there you are” kind of a book; the initial crew of one hundred explorers consists of scientists of various stripes and disciplines who quickly split into factions; and Mars being laden with valuable mineral deposits, and Earth being kind of a cesspool, the first hundred are subsequently followed by a gradually increasing stream of settlers seeking to obtain the resources of the new planet, who quickly split into still more factions. Within a few decades you’ve got environmental degradation (in a manner of speaking; it’s not like there are any living ecosystems to disrupt on Mars, but some of the scientists become pretty attached to the planet in its pristine state), corporate chicanery, exploitation of workers, government manipulation, terrorism … and Marxists:
He swore with disgust. “No wonder Marxism is dead.”Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
“Well, sir, actually a lot of people on Mars call themselves Marxists.”*
“Shit! They might as well call themselves Zoroastrians, or Jansenists, or Hegelians.”
“Marxists are Hegelian, sir.”
“Shut up,” Frank snarled, and broke the connection.
And that, I’m pretty sure, is the first time I’ve ever seen a novel where somebody terminates a call in a fit of pique over the philosophical classification of Marxism. I’m sure that somewhere I’ve still got my old book on Karl Marx from my college days, philosophy being one of my two useless—or at least, unused—Bachelor’s degrees. (The other one is psychology, in case anybody was wondering**.)
Red Mars is the first in the “Mars” trilogy; it’s followed by Green Mars and Blue Mars, the titles of which, presumably, refer to the progression of terraforming as the decades go by. Although I’m enjoying the book well enough, I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to read more of the series; unlike, say, Pandora’s Star or Leviathan Wakes, it didn’t immediately reel me in and make me say, I have to read this entire story arc from start to finish. I have a feeling that as long as nothing happens in the last quarter of the book to seriously piss me off, I’ll at least pick up Green Mars, but we’ll see.
And now, as required for Teaser Tuesdays, I went to random.org to have it pick a page from one of my books to excerpt, and this week it pointed me at a page near the end of Night Watchman. Unlike what often occurs when random.org lands me in the latter part of one of my books, this time, I was able to pull out a few paragraphs that are pretty much spoiler-free:
She steps through the doorway and instantly things change. She’s not standing in the middle of a tower of fire; she’s in a little round building with brick walls and a bare concrete floor. Pipes and wires run everywhere, they snake across the ceiling and rise up from the ground and hang from the walls. On the wall next to the door is some sort of electrical panel, with a great big lever and a light that glows red like eyes reflecting light.Night Watchman, by James Viscosi
A metal door stands behind her, shut up tight. She must have walked through it somehow, or else it closed after she came in and she didn’t hear it. Then she takes a closer look at it and decides that this door hasn’t opened in quite a while. The metal is scorched and partially melted and it looks like it’s fused with the jamb into a single sheet of iron.
Well, that settles that. Didn’t come in that way, not getting out that way.
Hmm, how did she get into that little building, if not through the door? And how is she getting out again? Well to be honest I can’t remember, exactly.
But it’s definitely not a place where you would want to spend a lot of time.
* Or maybe that should be “Marsxists” … Although I think that might be unpronounceable.
** With those two degrees plus a minor in English under my belt, I used to like to refer to myself as “unemployable in two-and-a-half fields”. Fortunately, I do have an employable graduate degree.