In my reading of Red Mars, the first of Robinson’s Mars books, I detected an esoteric infrastructure for the saga of the First Hundred, cast according to the pattern of the gods of ancient Egypt and their legendary deeds. The esotericism of this sequel is alchemical, as openly signaled in the first of its ten parts, but carried through in more subtle details as well as the overarching structure. Ann Clayborne reflects at one point on the nomenclature of areography, which is remarkably alchemical when Robinson translates it into English, not that Ann notices:
“Only on Mars did they walk about in an horrendous mishmash of the dreams of the past, causing who knew what disastrous misapprehensions of the real terrain: the Lake of the Sun, the Plain of Gold, the Red Sea, Peacock Mountain, the Lake of the Phoenix, Cimmeria, Arcadia, the Gulf of Pearls, the Gordian Knot, Styx, Hades, Utopia….” (121)
As with the first book, the novella-length components alternately follow different principal characters, most of whom are still members of the original expedition, now well into their second (terrestrial) century of life. These characters accordingly are driven to reflect on memory, both in actuality and theory. The two new focal characters are Nirgal (a native Martian of first Hundred parentage) and Art Randolph, an new immigrant sent as a liaison to the Martian underground from one of Earth’s metanational corporations.
This middle book of the trilogy is a tale of transformation that describes the accomplishment of the Martian biosphere and political independence. As with the first, it is replete with political and scientific meditations, anchored in the travails of admirable but credibly fallible central characters. The lore of Big Man and the little red people of Mars (272-274) also acknowledges the vital presence of a fantasy dimension, that is nevertheless not deeply explored. The end of the book is clearly only the beginning of a story, although it does deliver some satisfaction in its own right. [via]
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