As a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s excellent Mars trilogy, which chronicles man’s colonization of Mars in painstaking detail, I had been meaning to read The Martians for quite some time. I read two of the short stories in the collection a while ago, but found myself put off by the fact that one of them (“Maya and Desmond”) didn’t fit into the chronology of the original trilogy.
This time, I read the collection from the beginning, and realized after the first story (“Michel in Antarctica”) that deviations from the canon chronology are the point of this collection. Sort of. Certain stories fit in seamlessly with what we know about the Martian colonists and their descendants (my favorite, “Jackie on Zo,” for example), while others imagine wildly different outcomes of the Earth’s space program or events from the previous books, and still others push far into the Martian future. Robinson paints a lovely series of vignettes that illustrate the range of possibilities he had with his previous characters, and manages to enhance and enrich the original books even further.
Robinson effectively creates an emotional and temporal throughline in this collection by checking in with new character Roger Claybourne every few stories and tells the tale of his political, emotional, and romantic evolution throughout his artificially extended lifetime (Note: everyone on Mars has an artificially extended lifetime.) The tales range from silly to bittersweet to topographical (I admit to skimming those stories; I’ve never been a big fan of reading about landscapes), and only become self-indulgent toward the end, where Robinson has included a list of music he listened to while writing about Mars, a bunch of poems, and a short story about the day he finished his novel (Red Mars, presumably, although the chapter is called “Purple Mars.)
This is definitely a book for those who have already read Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Out of context, I’m not sure how much impact the stories would have, since prior knowledge of characters’ personalities and relationships are often vital. In some ways, it’s just fan fiction from the author of the source material, but it’s such a delight to spend just a little more time with the Martians, that doesn’t really matter.