Reading Day 1: Red Mars pp.1-29, Stand on Zanzibar pp.15-38

Red Mars

This book starts at the dawn of the first real Martian city, and immediately launches into the politics surrounding the evolution of the culture of the Martian people, contrasting it to the cultures of Earth. Kim Stanley Robinson does not shy away from racial conflict, which I might have misinterpreted as recklessness or stupidity if I hadn’t previously read The Years of Rice and Salt. This author is not ignorant of culture, and if he’s writing things with suggestive tones, it’s intentional. Very well written so far — I had to make myself stop at page 29.

Stand on Zanzibar

Brunner’s invented future-speak is one of the most fun parts of this book, but at times it’s hopelessly confusing. I wonder if, in some cases, he didn’t even know what certain abbreviations he’d written were supposed to mean — just to help add to the sense of bewilderment in the familiar, alien (familiarly alien?) universe he’s constructing.

Everything about this book — considering it as a collage, watching patterns emerge between the snippets of information, trying to decipher the speech of the people in his world, recognizing aspects of our society which may or may not have existed for Brunner to consciously lampoon in 1968. It’s an insanely good read every time I pick it up, but I’m very concerned that I’m just not smart enough to appreciate it. Perhaps on a second or a third reading, in a few years, I’ll feel like I get the big themes.

Occasionally there’ll be snippets that push hard at the fourth wall, and they always make me feel like I’ve missed something vital. The most recent came after an action-packed scene, and went as follows [my notes in square brackets like this]

“It’s no coincidence”

(COINCIDENCE You weren’t paying attention to the other half of what was going on.
–The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan

“that we have…” [continues]

The initial sentence is continued, and goes on to talk about berserkers, density in societies, and conditions that led to adoption of eunuchs in China, as a backdrop for ‘muckers’, which is a commonplace term for people who go crazy and kill random strangers at malls, parks, schools, anywhere. I was unaware that mass murder was “a thing” in 1968, enough to be seen as a rising trend in society. I which I had more context about what the world was really like at the time, so that I could tell what satirical elements turned into predictions versus what is just poking at the elements of his own world.

Anyway, good start. I took quite a while to read them — mostly did it while walking around. Tomorrow I’m continuing Stand on Zanzibar, and I’ll start re-reading that other one I mentioned in an earlier post. Three posts today! Wild.

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