Red Mars certainly is an apt title. The story takes place on Mars, a.k.a. the Red Planet—you know, because it looks red. The redness of the planet takes on an extra layer of meaning, though, when you consider that the goal of the colonists is to transform this barren, dead land into something living and, indeed, life-sustaining.
So the red in Red Mars signals the challenge the planet presents the crew (unless you're Ann, that is), and signifies the novel's major conflict in a word. It's basically as simple at that. Except…
To really understand why the novel received its color-coded title, we're going to have to look at the entire trilogy. In order, the titles are:
- Red Mars
- Green Mars
- Blue Mars
Why the shifting planetary palette? As the series progresses, so does the terraforming of Mars. In the first book, Mars is a bit of iron oxide infused rock. By the second book, special flora has learned to thrive and spread over its surface. By the final book of the trilogy, Mars is fully habitable with forests, wildlife, and even oceans. Like Earth, it's become a blue planet, and blue, in a sense, means human-friendly. And as Mars evolves through the efforts of its human guests, humanity also evolves with the very technology pushing the Sun's fourth planet on its way.
The book titles here act as a sort of timeline, then, marking the shifts on Mars. Red Mars signals Mars is still in a primordial state. Likewise, humanity is still in its primordial state—well, primordial in regards to our spacefaring endeavors, anyway.