Imagine Red Mars as a juggler. As with any decent beast of a novel novel, it puts a whole lot of plot balls up in the air and has been juggling them for our amusement. But now, the end of the spectacle has come, and Red Mars needs to figure out a way to bring all those balls down without letting them all crash to the ground. Does it manage? Let's find out.
The debate on whether or not to terraform Mars is a central motif in the novel. The Reds—those lacking a Martian green-thumb—are against any transforming of Mars, while the Greens are gung-ho about terraforming the planet. Although the Reds slowly lose ground, they never lose hope and the debate remains an open issue during most of the narrative.
But during the final days of the revolution, a massive aquifer is broken somehow and floods the rusted Martian landscape with ice and water. As Ann watches the deluge course through the canyon, she thinks to herself: "And every single feature of the primal Mars [will] melt away. Red Mars [is] gone" (8.2.44). What anybody wants or doesn't want at this point is moot: Mars is forever and significantly altered by humanity's meddling. There is no going back.
Home Sweet Home
Speaking of no going back: the Martian revolution is a failure. The transnationals and UNOMA have destroyed the last of the resistance, and anybody with the political clout to stop them are either dead—such as John, Frank, or Arkady—or have been forced into hiding—Maya, Nadia, Ann, Sax, and company.
The First Hundred have lost the home they worked so hard to build, but after a difficult journey, they manage to make it to Hiroko's refuge. There they find:
[…] a crush of people, many of them young folk and children, strangers, but with familiar faces everywhere making their way to the fore, Hiroko and Iwao, Raul, Rya, Gene, Peter crashing in to hug Ann and Simon, and there were Vlad and Ursula and Marina and several others […]. (8.4.11)
In other words, they rediscover their home. It's not just a place; it's the people. The children are of particular importance since they've been noticeably absent in the story so far. In them, the First Hundred have a chance to remake society once again and fix the problems that have befallen their red world.
As Hiroko notes in the final line, "[t]his is where we start again" (8.4.16). Hopefully, a little wiser now, given how well things turned out last time.
There's some resolution, but the ending does leave a few plot balls in the air for the sequel. Here are a few choice questions left open for the next installment in the Mars trilogy:
- What will happen to Mars now that it's completely under transnat rule?
- Does Phyllis survive her trip in the great space elevator?
- What the heck has Hiroko been doing this whole time? And can we please get some more information on her religion, areophany?
- Who are these children anyway? We know they are the spawn of the First Hundred by way of artificial insemination, but who are they?
- And the Coyote? Seriously.
- How exactly will they start again?
- Whatever happened to Zeyk?
- Now that Mars will no longer exist in its primal state, what's the next step in its evolution?
Like any good entertainer, Red Mars saves a little something for the encore. And what an encore Green Mars is.