errorsandexceptions

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Tag Archives: criticism

Notes on the Mars Trilogy, part 2

The quality of the prose varies widely between the volumes of the trilogy. In Red Mars it is workmanlike. In Green Mars, Robinson hits his stride. Up to this point the style is serviceable, but not a conspicuous quality. Blue Mars contains the finest writing of all three, but also some purple passages.

The changes in tone could negatively affect the unity of the trilogy, but for the particularity of the subject. The lexicon of Martian geography – caldera, albedo, planitia – and the cod-Latin names of planetary features from Lowell and Schiaparelli are used throughout. These, and the frequent references to scientific theories, confer a Martian quality on the writing. The abstruse terms that punctuate the prose create a sense of cohesion, setting up resonances that tie the work together and constantly remind the reader of the strangeness of the venue.

Science Fiction

Science Fiction has a bad reputation in some quarters. It conjures up ideas of childish fantasies of escape from the hardships of life, naive utopianism, bad prose, carboard characters, improbably lustful female aliens and epic space battles. Surely not the kind of thing that serious people should waste their time on.

There is some truth to this. All these things exist in science fiction, just as in supposedly literary writing there are airheaded girls who think of nothing but making a good marriage, tedious dipsomaniac novelists and acres of unneccessary pondering of the meaning of various banal but oh-so-authentic experiences. It is not my mission to defend schlock, irrespective of the heading it is shelved under in Waterstones. Let’s just agree that good writing transcends genre (that snobbish notion) and that, as far as the rest is concerned, Sturgeon got it right: 90% of everything is crap.