Reviewed date: 2003 Jul 12
Green Mars follows a group of climbers as they scale Olympus Mons, the highest peak on Mars. (27 km high, if you must know. And 600 km in diameter at the base.) But what Green Mars is really about is Roger Clayborne coming to grips with the new Mars. Mars has been terraformed during Roger's lifetime, but he remembers the way Mars used to be--and he much prefers the old, pristine Mars to the new, green Mars.
Green Mars is a decent novella, but I didn't find it particularly captivating. For one thing, I never felt the urgency in the climbers' quest for conquer Olympus Mons. And the author seems to alternate between trying to draw us into the thrill of the climb, and trying to show us the tragedy of the terraforming of Mars.
However, despite those flaws, it was a good read. The only real problem I had was that I kept losing track of the characters. Part of that is a lack of strong character development, and part of it is the author's habit of switching points of view without warning.
I'd like to comment on that some more: the author often and with little warning switches from telling the story from the point of view of character A to the point of view of character B. While it makes it easier to follow the important action this way, it basically destroys any chance of building strong characters.
I didn't mention it before, but Charles Sheffield had the same habit in The Spheres of Heaven, although in his case he managed to handle it fairly well, and only left me confused a couple times. Also, it helps that Sheffield was writing an entire novel, so he could afford to sacrifice a little speed of character development, which Robinson could not afford in the short 112 pages of Green Mars.