Study Guide

Red Mars Tough-o-Meter

By Kim Stanley Robinson


(5) Tree Line

Red Mars can, at times, be more daunting than it is difficult—it's a brick of a book, and inside it has massive paragraphs dominating several pages. Size aside, though, the book isn't a particularly hard read thanks to Robinson's clean and easygoing writing. Case in point:

Mars is small but heavy, with a nickel-iron core. It is small enough that the interior has cooled faster than Earth's; the core no longer spins inside the crust at a different speed, and so Mars has practically no magnetic field. No dynamo left. (3.1.1)

In this chapter, Robinson is discussing some pretty heady geological concepts, but he writes it in a way that is welcoming to the scientific newbie. Yay. Still, you may not understand all the science he throws into his world (we sure didn't), and killer words—such as dosimeters, piezoelectric, and polyvinylidene difluoride—pop up on the reg. What can we say? Scientists love them some Greek root words.

You can still enjoy the story without understanding what polyvinylidene difluoride is, but if you're keen on learning, then we recommend keeping a search engine and dictionary at the ready. Think of them as walking sticks to help you up the trail.