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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, Red Mars is the first book in Kim Stanley Robinson's best-selling trilogy. Red Mars is praised by scientists for its detailed visions of future technology. It is also hailed by authors and critics for its vivid characters and dramatic conflicts.

For centuries, the red planet has enticed the people of Earth. Now an international group of scientists has colonized Mars. Leaving Earth forever, these 100 people have traveled nine months to reach their new home. This is the remarkable story of the world they create - and the hidden power struggles of those who want to control it.

Although it is fiction, Red Mars is based on years of research. As living spaces and greenhouses multiply, an astonishing panorama of our galactic future rises from the red dust. Through Richard Ferrone's narration, each scene is energized with the designs and dreams of the extraordinary pioneers.

©1993 Kim Stanley Robinson (P)2000 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1993

"Generously blending hard science with canny insight into human strengths and weaknesses, this suspenseful sf saga should appeal to a wide range of readers." (Library Journal)"The ultimate in future history." (Daily Mail)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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The first Mars colony

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy is well-regarded by SF fans, but it didn't really live up to the hype for me, though it's an excellent entry in the hard SF genre. Robinson's prose is not as lyrical as Ray Bradbury's, but it's not as dry as Ben Bova's either. Red Mars seems to synthesize elements from all of Robinson's predecessors — it's a Heinleinesque adventure at times, with hard SF infodumps, but actual characters, and shout-outs to every author who's ever touched Mars, including Burroughs.

Red Mars is the tale of the first Martian colony, and covers a couple of generations of history. The "First Hundred" who established the original settlement become larger-than-life, almost mythical figures to those who follow after them, but as Mars begins to be taken over by political and economic factions bringing old issues of exploitation and oppression (followed by resistance and terrorism) from Earth, the Hundred are just as conflicted and prone to squabbling and working at cross-purposes as all the other settlers.

Early on, there is a huge debate over terraforming Mars, eventually becoming a conflict between the "Reds" and the "Greens." Eventually other cultures arrive on Mars and have their own ideas of what it means to be a Martian settler. Muslims make up a substantial segment of the population, as do Russians and other nationalities, all wanting to have an equal stake in Martian society.

The ending shows the surviving members of the Hundred witnessing what happens after decades of emigration and development on Mars, with much of what has been built up brought down by an uprising among the children of Mars.

If you are a space exploration geek, and especially if you are one of those who still dreams of a Mars expedition in our lifetime, then Red Mars may fire you up with a realistic view of what emigration to Mars might actually look like. It is almost certainly not an accurate picture of what will actually happen, should we ever get that far, but it's a realistic picture of what could happen.

I give this book 4 stars for being one of the best Mars books out there, but not 5 stars, because the story and the characters just did not grab me enough to wonder, "What happens next?"

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • JLM
  • Oakland, CA, United States
  • 08-21-12

Old School Hard Sci Fi, but softly

What made the experience of listening to Red Mars the most enjoyable?

Science, yes, but also relationships, pathos and politics interact to make this a pretty fun listen. I like these long intertwined stories of science, world building, yet not necessarily space opera-y. Not so far in the future that you can;t imagine it ...kinda...
But you have to be interested in the science to enjoy this, it is an integral part of the story.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Fountain Valley, CA, United States
  • 01-05-09

If you like books with DETAIL not much Action

I can see why the book won awards. The thought that went into this work is VERY good. It kept me listening to the end but it was just so that I could get to the end. It is a detailed look at what colonization would truly be like with all the good and bad points. If you want an action book this is probably NOT for you.

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Angela
  • Knoxville, TN, USA
  • 10-09-09

A true masterpiece

Red Mars (and The Mars Trilogy in general) asks big questions: How can we start over and recreate society, taking out the bad stuff and saving the good stuff? Can we escape history and remake ourselves into something that overcomes oppression of women, slavery, racism, greed, militarism, environmental destructiveness? Can we turn our society into a means for giving every member of that society a chance to achieve his or her own potential? These are big questions; they can't be answered with bumper sticker slogans. It takes a lot of detail and careful, thoughtful discussion to address them. So while a lot happens in this series, it isn't Star Trek. Problems aren't easily resolved. Situations are never black and white. The characters change, grow, and even forget how they got to the present.

For readers who like a lot of meat to chew over, these books are probably among the greatest written in the 20th century - obsessively researched, thickly layered with meaning and analysis; the whole series is something that you can listen to time and again, and hear something different every time. The characters are archetypes; even their names express who they are - but they are also real people, with real emotions, amazingly and skillfully brought to life. The issues discussed are both a comment on the present (and history) and, in the best tradition of science fiction, an analysis of future possibilities. I can't recommend the entire series more highly for the reader who enjoys this sort of thing. But be forewarned - there are bad reviews here, and I'm guessing they are from people who were looking for something different - lots of plot and action, perhaps a little less analysis. I enjoy those books too, so I'm not saying that as a criticism of those who didn't find this to their liking. I'm just saying that there are plenty of other books that fill this role. The Mars Trilogy is something else entirely.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Epic, brilliant

I've read these books twice and was thrilled to see them come out as audio books. They are a committment, not a quick sci-fi fix, but they are truly amazing in the scope, detail, character development and realistic approach the author takes in developing a society on Mars. I can say this is my favorite sci-fi series of all time - and I have read many. There are a lot of characters and I must admit I'm sure it helps I've read the books in print, but if you're used to really listening to complex books these will definitely be worth your time. The narrator is fine, steady and unobtrusive in his reading. I highly recommend this series if a major work of amazing sci-fi is what you are looking for.

37 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Dana
  • Troy, Maine, United States
  • 07-17-08

very long

This is a strange book. The writing is very competent. The aim seems to be to give a hyper-realistic account of what the colonization of Mars might be like, and some of the descriptive passages are startlingly evocative despite the audio narrator's relentless efforts to conceal the meaning of the sentences. The passages about science and technology are interesting even though most of them fail to advance the plot an inch. The plot is for all practical purposes nonexistent. There is a determined effort to shape realistic characters, but overall they are little different from soap opera people. There are long summary passages that sound like back story from notebooks. The characters argue and fight about things that might be important, but in their mouths sound trivial. Most action scenes come off as eighth-grade bullies' scuffles. Despite the intent to realism, I found it hard to believe that the first shipload of Martian colonists would be debating whether to completely throw out the colonization plans made on Earth (which by that time would have been decades in preparation) and with no replacement plans of their own, just naive political and social abstractions. Anyone with a disposition to disrupt the plans would have been screened out by NASA years before. The audio narrator is barely listenable; he is one of those readers with no ear for the rhythms and stresses of English, and who seems to believe words have no inherent meaning or feeling and he has to inject it, mostly resulting in relentlessly mis-stressed words and phrases to the disruption of the feeling that does reside there. The story being slow, the characters adolescent, and the reading poor, what allowed me to listen to this for the full 24 hours were that Robinson's workmanlike feel for English is usually strong enough to override the reader's misrepresentation of the sentences, and that occasionally a passage describing Mars arises vividly, worth waiting for over long, long stretches.

39 of 47 people found this review helpful

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I wish there was a different narrator. :(

It's necessary to explain how I listen to my audio books right now. I play them at night, when I lay down and play my games, and during the night. I hear a lot more of the books than one might think.

With that explained, RED MARS begins as a 100 person trip to Mars of the best (insert here), to live on Mars. Sounds simple? Ain't.

I don't like to knock people at their jobs. This fellow shouldn't give up his day job. There are SO many opportunities in this book for a good narrator, or group of narrators. The characters are so rich and diverse. Even among the Americas, there's not really much in the way of differentiation. But even KNOWING there were Russians, Iranian, Iraqi, Shiite, Egyptian, Japanese, Chinese, German, and on and on--my memory is lacking--when I listen to this book I FORGET that Sasha and Nadya are Russian, cause they sound like everyone else. The only group he accented were Southern, and he didn't get us right. The way he reads the book is like all the countries had a prerequisite, and only one. If you go to Mars, you have to speak darn good English--unless you're Southern!

I'm sorry I''ve rambled, but one more thing. He keeps mispronouncing words!

This is a decent book. What a shame to do that to a book.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian
  • Houston, TX, USA
  • 11-18-09

Mars Unleashed

Kim Stanley Robinson has created the most imaginable colonization of Mars. I found the Audio book captivating. Having read all 3 books in the series, I can say that the concepts in the books are completely realistic. The reader does a really good job of portraying the characters in the Novel, each character is distinct in my mind.

I have really enjoyed this Audio book.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

It's like listening to a documentary

If one pretended that humans really did settle on Mars, this book is like listening to a Discovery Channel dramatized info-documentary on the process of settling Mars. We hear about the lives of the people and their squabbles, plus all the details of building a habitat and society in a new land.

It's not bad, but it's not terribly interesting either. The narrator is sufficient.

There is some plot but it's buried under hours of the (very creative) details about settling Mars. This doesn't make it bad, it just makes it... err... unsuspenseful. If you would like detailed descriptions of how a Mars survival suit, space ship or habitat would work, or how a new society would work out their political differences, this is a great book. If you like a mystery or action or wondering "what will happen next" in a story, you probably will be bored with this.

I put my ipod on the faster reading speed but still can't bring myself to spend any more time listening to this pseudo-documentary. I will not be buying any more in this series.

22 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • Shingle Springs, CA, USA
  • 09-27-09


This is a very tedious book to read. No main characters or even character development. Everything the author started to develop a character they were killed off. There are a lot of blind alleys ... interesting things at the beginning of the book that I thought may be clues to the story but were never developed. Almost like this book is a bunch of bits & pieces of stories all loosely glued together.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason
  • 04-23-09


I note that it is highly rated by many people but I found it over-long with stereotypical characters one couldn't empathise with. The book is often commended for its well researched detail but the amount of detail acts as padding and gets in the way of the story - an encyclopaedia may have lots of well researched detail but that doesn't make it a good novel.

14 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • N. Price
  • 08-12-10

Epic scope, pedestrian delivery

Let's start with the positives: the audio production of this recording is excellent and the narrator is top notch.

The book itself is epic in scope and tells the story of the settlement and terraforming of Mars in great detail. As far as I can ascertain, the author's research is impeccable and the descriptions of Martian geography and scientific processes are inspired.

So, what's the problem?

Well, there's the length, and there's the pace of the story. Even if it were only half its current length, this would be a big book. To sustain such a long narrative, you would hope for interesting characters, lively prose and plenty of incident and excitement. Sadly, all of these ingredients are absent.

The story unfolds at a glacial pace and the author studiously avoids anything approaching adventure. There are storms, but everyone survives them without too much difficulty. There are many journeys, all of them long, during which little or nothing happens. A mystery is solved in a dull and perfuctory fashion.

Events do finally take a more interesting turn in the final third of the book, but even so, there is too little danger and too much talk.

The prose is functional and competent but nothing more. The characters are flat and two-dimensional and given to delivering set speeches on scientific and political topics. Many of the minor characters seem to be there solely to provide information dumps.

There is plenty of New Age philosophising and cross-cultural apologetics along the way, all of which is no doubt very worthy, but this listener soon tired of it and longed for something interesting to happen. Some sections of this book sound like an attempt at dramatising whole articles from Wikipedia.

So: a long book which is well read and which has some fascinating scientific detail, but which offers little in the way of excitement or interesting characterisation.

I love science fiction, but I'm afraid that I found 'Red Mars' very dull.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel
  • 11-11-16

Epic. very long but worth it!

very long but worth it! Thought provoking while being enjoyably. so many different aspects, philosophies and ideas combined into one great narrative.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Danielle
  • 09-07-09

Big Snooze

The books flits about from one (of the many characters) to another without going into depth and allowing you the chance to empathise. This makes their petty squabbles as to how the planet should be handled irrelevant to the reader. You never really get to understand the reasoning behind each characters stand point only their actions as to what they will do to protect their way of thinking. I also bought the sequels Green and Blue - and it doesn't get any better or more interesting.

7 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-07-18

Sorry mr Robinson, not getting it...

I can see that the author has great skill, but I'm struggling to empathise with any of the characters, likable our not, and it's equally difficult to engage with the story. shame, I really wanted to fall in love this this trilogy. I may be spoiled by to many good Iain m banks and Peter f Hamilton books. and with all due respect to the narrator, I reckon he would be great for a Bill Bryson travelogue, but that slight dryness of delivery, for me, takes away from the drama of the story.

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  • Heisenberg
  • 07-17-17

Inspiring epic sci fi classic.

This is not a novel to approach expecting lots of action and adventure, but at the same time I did not find it plodding or dry. It is a long book, and judging by some of the other reviews, too long for many people, but it is this epic scope that I enjoyed. I think a book about the colonisation, and eventual terraforming of Mars, which takes place over many decades, requires that depth.

Though they are very different in scope, it reminded me a little of "The Martian", by Andy Weir. Obviously the two novels both have Mars as a setting, but far more than this, they share a thoroughly researched, close attention to scientific detail.

I have been reading a lot recently about Elon Musk's SpaceX efforts to establish a colony on Mars, and it was those news stories that led me to "Red Mars". When reading Science fiction, I want it to be about big ideas, and to transport me, in my imagination, into that future world. This achieved that. I don't know if Musk's plans will succeed, but through this novel, I am starting to believe a little more.

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  • jonas
  • 06-01-17

heaven to sticklers for detail.

Long winded at times, this book really goes into great scientific detail on a lot of subjects while spinning a great narrative.

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  • Jack
  • 02-02-17

Worth it... Mostly?

I enjoyed it. And I really tried to keep enjoying it. Alas, the characters suck.

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  • Amadeus
  • 06-26-16

Great audiobook, chaotic story

I've decided to read Red Mars after hearing it is being made into a TV Series. The story is chaotic and strange, sometimes naive and unbelievable, characyers are strange and hard to like. The second half was better though.

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  • 05-13-16


I'm just amazed of all the imagination and vast scientific research the author has done to create this book

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  • Scott
  • 03-22-17

Very interesting take on life on another planet.

Very interesting take on life on another planet. Seems that a whole lot of research was done and I loved that it dealt with so many aspects I had never thought about. It wasn't the best "story" I found in regards to entertainment value.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jackson
  • 12-21-17

Great hard sci fi

I loved hearing a hard sci fi that not only thought about physical sciences but earth and biological science as well. the author works hard to create an utterly believable story (despite recent scientific evidence that water is so scarce on Mars!).

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  • M. Beard
  • 11-06-17

loved it

highly recommended. excellent character and world building. thoroughly engaging story. very thought provoking. best sort of scifi

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  • michael
  • 11-29-16

Not a good audiobook

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

this story sounded good and I was looking foward to listening to this but the narrator is just dull and my mind kept driffting of a listen to the start 3 times and still have no idea what the book is about as i just cant concentrate

Has Red Mars put you off other books in this genre?

no but it will be awhile before I spond money on a mars book

How could the performance have been better?

yes did they even audition this narrator or just picked some old man from the nursing home.

What character would you cut from Red Mars?

didnt even get that far

Any additional comments?

plot sounded good will give another go if another narrator read this.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful