Hmm. I read this book because Scott read it last summer on his trip to China and he said it was pretty good. But. I started reading it and it was not. He claimed that it got better (insert Monty Python joke here), so I buckled down and kept going. It certainly did get better… after the first 300 pages. Of 571. And then some of those remaining pages were also bad. But not all of them.
The story itself is a long-winded affair about the colonization of Mars, at first by a small group of Russians, Americans, and various other nationalities, and then by the rest of Earth. At the very beginning you read about one of the first hundred killing another, and you’re like, “Whoa! Crazy! Why did that happen?” and Robinson tells you IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL, starting with the selection of the colonists several years earlier. There are also a lot of weird tangents about areology (the study of Mars) and psychology that are interesting to a point, but a) have nothing to do with the plot and b) read more like a journal article than a novel.
When the action picks up and the story goes back to the whole someone-getting-killed thing it’s fairly well done, but other than that it’s a snooze.