weeding out the dreck, part 2

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Two more science fiction books I like, as we continue to separate the good stuff from the crap.

The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars published in 1993, 1994, & 1997)
These novels combine sharply drawn characters with an extremely realistic portrayal of the colonization of Mars. Imagine an epic trilogy about the first three generations of settlers in America, only transfer this to another planet. The technology, the fight for survival, the political struggles, the revolutionary war, the business deals, the cultural changes–it’s a huge feat of very detailed imagination, and massively entertaining. One theme running through the books is the struggle between those who want to leave the planet’s landscape as it is, and those who wish to make it more earth-like. Powerful personalities collide, mix, exchange ideas, and bounce back again. The whole thing is made very believable. The books are some kind of landmark in the genre.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (1956)
This short novel has it’s share of predictions about the future that seem silly now, but the book is an explosion of entertaining creativity. Characters and events are so larger than life that’s it kind of a wild comic book of a story crammed with surprises. It takes place in a future society where everyone has learned how to mentally teleport themselves around the earth. (See the “Let’s Teleport” blog entry for ironic real-life contrast.) The author starts with this premise, and takes off from there in a frantic story involving a circus, a doomsday weapon, corporate megalomania, and psychic power. The hero is a man who performs the first teleportation through space, and later uses his powerful will to gain money, then power, and then in a crazed stunt, wrests ultimate power from the earth’s elite and throws it into the hands of everyday citizens. Hard to describe. Hard to put down.

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