Monday, April 13, 2009

Red Mars (Cont.)

“The revolt seemed to Nadia more a waste than ever, an unfocused spasm of rage, the ultimate cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The whole world, wrecked! She told the others to send out a radio message on one of the general channels, announcing that Arkady was dead. Sasha agreed, and helped convince the others to do it. “It will help stop things more quickly,” Sasha said” (513).

This New World is a dangerous one, and fear seems rampant even before war breaks out. It is a place where, mixed with an idealism of what Mars could be, death and destruction seem part and parcel of everyday life: “New organisms are being cooked up daily,” John sent on, “and it might be possible to create something that would kill everything else on the planet.” (261). Cultures remain isolated and inscrutable to one another: “Worse than that, there was now a whole society on Mars that was basically impenetrable to him. Moslems, what were they exactly? (282). And so John might attempt to “inspire the people on the planet to figure out a way to forget history, to build a functioning society,” but even his idealism has its limits, as when he notes that “events were out of control” and “there were no plans” (283). It might have been okay – this beginning of a new life together – if they had left an Earth where citizens played nicely with one another. But no such luck! Instead, it has several wars in progress and the citizens of this great land have created such a “shithole” that they have essentially moved to Mars – not as a great experiment, but as an escape.

And so they brought not only their fears of other cultures with them, but also their inability to understand and tolerate one another. Their personal relationships serve as a microcosm of just such discord. John sleeps with Maya not just out of lust, but also as a punishment for Frank, who still wants her. And Ann may discuss the insurgents with John, but she bluntly tells him she wishes them luck, because unlike John, she does not want to change the planet. And John wants to work through UNOMA while Maya prefers not to, which causes more disagreement between them. Frank resents John’s power and actively seeks to kill him. Sax wants terraforming, but at the expense of the ecological health of the planet, and Frank reminds him that it comes at a cost: “Real costs, Sax. . . . Think what will happen when millions of displaced Terran emigrants arrive here, and with all their viruses, biological and psychic. Maybe they’ll all join Arkady or Ann, ever thought of that? Epidemics, running through the mob’s body and mind – they could crash your whole system! . . . You should pay attention! This isn’t mechanics, Sax. It’s ecology. And it’s a fragile, managed ecology, so it has to be managed” (403).

Even John, the ultimate idealist, realizes that “few of the newcomers seemed much like the first hundred in regard to their reasons for coming” (284). And worse, there are bands of insurgents following their own leaders (Bogdanovists, religious communes, utopian experiments, nationalists, followers of the biologist Schnelling, etc. . .) in what appears to be a microcosm of the craziness on Earth. And worse, the Margaritifer group, apparently with Arkady’s permission (he told them to work on Clarke?), intentionally separate the cable – killing masses of people in the process (which they excuse as mostly UN police), and then sheepishly realize that they may have killed Arkady in the process. And of course, in this dystopian world, there is no punishment for their actions, except for the aftereffects of the chaos that they too will have to live in.

It is also never really clear what Arkady actually intended, or instructed his followers to do, as he himself states “And if some of his own people were keeping things from him, that was bad; but if another group had secret plans of its own, that was worse, apparently, because they were at least interference, and perhaps competition” (191). What a mess. And when war comes, it seems to come from all sides: “Look, Sax, this isn’t the American Revolution, or the French or the Russian or the English. It’s all the revolutions at once, and everywhere! A whole world is in revolt, with a land area equal to Earth’s, and only a few thousand people are trying to stop it . . .” (513).

And so, many of the first hundred are brought back together in their new “home,” as Hiroko states, but that plot development does not make this novel a utopia. Only the next two novels will tell whether they can manifest their dreams without killing one another.

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