Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Week 11: Red Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" presents a utopian system that seems the most realistic among all the novels assigned. Considering the way Martian colony narratives play in the popular imagination, this is not surprising. Real scientific arguments exist about the possibility of pursuing the goal of space colonization. Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine a future scenario in which humanity may face the ethical dilemma of expanding our presence across outer spheres in the wake of environmental and/or diplomatic catastrophe. Such an outcome would represent such a tremendous failure by the whole of society, it would be understandable that many people would resist a project of that nature.

It is for these reasons that in the opening chapter where Frank Chalmers behaves tacitly critical of John Boone's public address, I am immediately drawn in and want to understand more about Frank, who we soon learn is implicated in Boone's assassination. What's so interesting about what is revealed through how one character serves as the perfect foil for the other one, is how Boone's optimistically, though troublingly hegemonic world view pulls the audience right into a deeper meditation on the purposes of power -- think, manifest destiny. Clearly, the first man on Mars is named after Daniel Boone to invoke this parrallel. What is also clear has to do with the motivations of those (especially those who follow the first 100) are so divergent, yet incredibly commonplace -- duty, romance, power, greed, intellectual curiosity. It's a familiar story that has been defamiliarized in the context of this parodoxically stock setting, though alien landscape.

I will post more in the following hours, days, and week on this subject.

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