The Martians (Anglais) Relié – août 1999
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There was always a lot to do. They had been dropped there in the largest of the Antarctic dry valleys with a load of disassembled huts and, for immediate occupancy, Scott tents. Their task through the perpetual day of the Antarctic summer was to build their winter home, which on assembly had turned out to be a fairly substantial and luxurious modular array of interconnected red boxes. In many ways it seemed analogous to what the voyagers would be doing when they arrived on Mars, and so of course to Michel it was all very interesting.
There were 158 people there, and only a hundred were going to be sent on the first trip out, to establish a per- manent colony. This was the plan as designed by the Americans and Russians, who had then convened an international team to implement it. So this stay in Ant- arctica was a kind of test, or winnowing. But it seemed to Michel that everyone there assumed he or she would be among the chosen, so there was little of the tension one saw in people doing job interviews. As they said, when it was discussed at all--in other words when Michel asked about it--some candidates were going to drop out, others would be invalided out, and others placed on later trips to Mars, at worst. So there was no reason to worry. Most of the people there were not worriers anyway--they were capable, brilliant, assured, used to success. Michel worried about this.
They finished building their winter home by the fall equinox, March 21. After that the alternation of day and night was dramatic, the brilliant slanted light of the days ending with the sun sliding off to the north and over the Olympus Range, the long twilights leading to a black starry darkness that eventually would be complete, and last for months. At their latitude, perpetual night would begin a little after mid-April. The constellations as they revealed themselves were the stars of another sky, foreign and strange to a northerner like Michel, reminding him that the universe was a big place. Each day was shorter than the one before by a palpable degree, and the sun burned lower through the sky, its beams pouring down between the peaks of the Asgaard and Olympus Ranges like vibrant stagelights. People got to know each other.
When they were first introduced, Maya had said, "So you are to evaluate us!"--with a look that seemed to suggest this could be a process that went both ways. Michel had been impressed. Frank Chalmers, looking over Maya's shoulder at him, had seen this.
They were a mix of personality types, as one might expect. But they all had the basic social skillfulness that had allowed them to make it this far, so that whether outgoing or withdrawn in their basic nature, they could still all talk easily. They were interested in each other, naturally. Michel saw a lot of relationships beginning to bloom around him. Romances too. Of course.
To Michel all the women in camp were beautiful. He fell a little in love with a lot of them, as was his practice always. Men he loved as elder brothers, women as goddesses he could never quite court (fortunately). Yes: Every woman was beautiful, and all men were heroes. Unless of course they weren't. But most were; this was humanity's default state. So Michel felt; he always had. It was an emotional setting that cried out for psychoanalysis, and in fact he had undergone analysis, without changing this feeling a bit (fortunately). It was his take on people, as he had said to his therapists. Naive, credulous, obtusely optimistic--and yet it made him a good clinical psychologist. It was his gift.
Tatiana Durova, for instance, he thought as gorgeous as any movie star, with also that intelligence and individuality that derived from life lived in the real world of work and community. Michel loved Tatiana.
And he loved Hiroko Ai, a remote and charismatic human being, withdrawn into her own affairs, but kind. He loved Ann Clayborne, a Martian already. He loved Phyllis Boyle, sister to Machiavel. He loved Ursula Kohl like the sister he could always talk to. He loved Rya Jimenez for her black hair and bright smile, he loved Marina Tokareva for her tough logic, he loved Sasha Yefremova for her irony.
But most of all he loved Maya Toitovna, who was as exotic to him as Hiroko, but more extroverted. She was not as beautiful as Tatiana, but drew the eye. The natural leader of the Russian contingent, and a bit forbidding--dangerous somehow--watching everyone there in much the same way Michel was, though he was pretty sure she was a tougher judge of people. Most of the Russian men seemed to fear her, like mice under a hawk, or maybe it was that they feared falling hopelessly in love with her. If Michel were going to Mars (he was not), she was the one he would be most interested in.
Of course Michel, as one of the four psychologists there to help evaluate the candidates, could not act on any of these affections. That did not bother him; on the contrary he liked the constraint, which was the same he had with any of his clients. It allowed him to indulge his thoughts without having to consider acting on them. "If you don't act on it, it wasn't a true feeling"--maybe the old saying was right, but if you were forbidden to act for good reasons, then your feelings might not be false after all. So he could be both true and safe. Besides, the saying was wrong, love for one's fellow humans could be a matter of contemplation only. There was nothing wrong with it.
Maya was quite certain she was going to Mars. Michel therefore represented no threat to her, and she treated him like a perfect equal. Several others were like her in this respect--Vlad, Ursula, Arkady, Sax, Spencer, a few others. But Maya took matters beyond that; she was intimate from the very start. She would sit and talk to him about anything, including the selection process itself. They spoke English when they talked, their partial competence and strong accents making for a picturesque music.
"You must be using the objective criteria for selecting people, the psychological profiles and the like."
"Yes, of course. Tests of various kinds, as you know. Various indexes."
"But your own personal judgments must count too, right?"
"Yes. Of course."
"But it must be hard to separate out your personal feelings about people from your professional judgments, yes?"
"How do you do it?"
"Well . . . I suppose you would say it is a habit of mind. I like people, or whatever, for different reasons to the reasons that might make someone good on a project like this."
"For what reasons do you like people?"
"Well, I try not to be too analytical about that! You know--it's a danger in my job, becoming too analytical. I try to let my own feelings alone, as long as they aren't bothering me somehow."
She nodded. "Very sensible, I'm sure. I don't know if I could manage that. I should try. It's all the same to me. That's not always good. Not appropriate." With a quick sidelong smile at him.
She would say anything to him. He thought about this, and decided that it was a matter of their respective situations: Since he was staying behind, and she was going (she seemed so sure), it didn't much matter what she said to him. It was as if he were dying to her, and she therefore giving herself to him, openly, as a farewell gift.
But he wanted her to care about what she said to him.
On April 18 the sun went away. In the morning it sparked in the east, shining directly up the valley for a minute or two, and then with a faint green flash it slipped behind Mount Newell. After that the dark days had midday twilights, shorter every day; then just night. Starry starry night. It was beyond Martian, this constant darkness--living by starlight with the aching cold outside, experiencing sensory deprivation in everything but one's sense of cold. Michel, a Provençal, found that he hated both the cold and the dark. So did many of the others. They had been living in an Antarctic summer, thinking life was good and that Mars would not be such a challenge after all, and then with winter they were suddenly getting a better idea of what Mars would be like--not exactly, but in the sense of experiencing a massive array of deprivations. It was sobering how hard it hit.
Of course some did better than others. Some seemed not even to notice. The Russians had experienced cold and dark almost like this before. Tolerance of confinement was also good among the senior scientists--Sax Russell, Vlad Taneev, Marina Tokareva, Ursula Kohl, Ann Clayborne--these and other dedicated scientists seemed to have the capacity to spend great amounts of their time reading, working at their computers, and talking. Presumably lives spent largely in labs had prepared them.
They also understood that this was the life Mars was waiting to give them. Something not that different from the lives they had always led. So that the best analogy to Mars, perhaps, was not Antarctica, but any intense scientific laboratory.
This led him to thoughts of the optimum life history when considering inclusion in the group: middle-aged lab scientist, dedicated, accomplished; childless; unmarried or divorced. Lots of applicants fit the criteria. In some ways you had to wonder. Though it wouldn't be fair; it was a life pattern with its own integrity, its own rewards. Michel himself fit the bill in every respect.
Naturally he had to divide his attention equally among all of the candidates, and he did.... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .
Revue de presse
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Praise for the novels of Kim Stanley Robinson:
"Robinson has succeeded not only in drawing human characters but also in bringing Antarctica to life. Whatever happens in the outer world, Antarctica--both the book and the continent--will become part of the reader's interior landscape."
--The Washington Post Book World
"If I had to choose one writer whose work will set the standard for science fiction in the future, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Forbidding yet fascinating, like the continent it describes...Echoes Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air."
Red Mars, winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel:
"An absorbing novel...a scientifically informed imagination of rare ambition at work."
--The New York Times Book Review
Green Mars, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel:
"Dense as a diamond and as sharp; it makes even most good novels seem pale and insignificant by comparison."
--The Washington Post Book World
Blue Mars, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel:
"A complex and deeply engaging dramatization of humanity's future...Exhilarating."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .
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Although THE MARTIANS is meant to satisfy the reader's curiosity for certain aspects of the trilogy, that curiosity isn't very strong. I quickly grew bored with the stories of THE MARTIANS. In fact, some of the stories inside made me feel overloaded and less appreciative of the trilogy.
THE MARTIANS isn't really worth reading unless you have read and enjoyed the trilogy several times. Even then, it's not very impressive.
So, where I was slightly miffed by Greg Bear's "Eon" series and some of its amazing similarities to Clarke's "Rama" (superficially anyway), at least those books were interesting, enjoyable, and brisk. With "The Martians," Robinson is far dirtier. He seems to have focused on making *more* money off the success of his trilogy, and has completely thumbed his nose at his Mars series fans in the process by tricking us into buying and reading painfully slow, horribly disconnected drivel. ...
To make matters worse, Kirkus and other reviewers actually praised the thing (on the back cover), which leads me to believe that respectable review sources cut established authors too much slack. If it were possible to revoke an author's earlier writing awards, I'd say "The Martians" would provide justifiable cause of action.
I tried for zero stars, but the review form forces me to pick something between 1 and 5.