Study Guide

Red Mars Rules and Order

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Rules and Order

And then it was ringing midnight, and they were in the Martian time slip, the thirty-nine-and-a-half-minute gap between 12:00:00 and 12:00:01, when all the clocks were blank or stopped moving. This was how the first hundred had decided to reconcile Mars's slightly longer day with the twenty-four-hour clock, and the solution had proved oddly satisfactory. (1.2.136)

The clock: the greatest of mankind's rulers. But for forty minutes every night on Mars, time seems to be the ruler of no one. We say seems because the whole time gap thing is kind of just another rule.

The idea that they should stay on a fraternal basis was big at NASA: out of the 1,384 pages of the tome NASA had compiled called Human Relations in Transit to Mars, only a single page was devoted to the subject of sex; and that page advised against it. They were, the tome suggested, something like a tribe, with a sensible taboo against intratribal mating. (2.2.81)

In over a thousand pages of rules, you of course have to have one dedicated to sex. The question is how they expect to enforce that page when their scientists are millions of miles away.

"We can never be self-sufficient unless we do terraforming," [Arkady] pointed out. "We need to terraform in order to make the planet ours, so that we will have the material basis for independence." (3.6.78)

Arkady knows that if you're dependent on others, then you're dependent on their rules as well. Clearly he's had his fair share of terrible bosses and even more terrible jobs.

"Hell, Sax and a lot of others used to talk about doing anything possible to terraform as quick as possible—driving a bunch of asteroids into the planet, using hydrogen bombs to try and start volcanoes—whatever it took! Now all those plans have been scrapped because of you and your supporters. The whole vision of how to terraform and how far to go with it has changed." (5.2.143)

Rules certainly have their advantages in society. They keep us from doing such awful acts as stealing from each other or dropping asteroids into our planets. And we like our planet as giant-asteroid-free as possible. Fancy, we know.

"Anyway, that's a large part of what economics is—people arbitrarily, or as a matter of taste, assigning numerical values to non-numerical things. And then pretending that they haven't just made the numbers up, which they have. Economics is like astrology in that sense, except that economics serves to justify the current power structure, and so it has a lot of fervent believers among the powerful." (5.7.8)

We act like the rules of economy are solid, but they're really as solid as vapor. Good luck convincing your bank of this the next time you overdraft your account, though.

"[…] because that's what the replacement set of rules is, the old parasitic greed of the kings and their henchmen, this system we call the transnational world order is just feudalism all over again, a set of rules that is anti-ecologic, it does not give back but rather enriches a floating international elite while impoverishing everything else […]." (5.10.105)

Elsewhere in this section, we suggest that wealth is a source of the transnats' power. But perhaps their ability to create the rules for their personal gain has just as much to do with it.

Money equals power; power makes the law; and law makes government. So that the national government in trying to restrain transnats were like the Lilliputians trying to tie down Gulliver. (6.2.42)

It may be true that mo' money brings mo' problems, but is also brings mo' power. And lots of it.

"Remember, there is much in your laws that is not in the Koran, but was added in the time since Mohammed."

"Added by holy men," Al-Khal said angrily.

"Certainly. But we choose the ways we enforce our religious beliefs in the behavior of daily life. This is true of all cultures. And we can choose new ways." (6.3.57-59)

Frank wants people to take personal responsibility for the rules they follow and those they don't. He wants humans to acknowledge that they are their own rulers.

John shook his head. In games there are rules, but in life the rules keep changing. (6.4.46)

We'll give it to John—this is true in spirit, but not technically true in games. That said, we officially challenge you to play Monopoly with us some time… You won't even believe the rules we've added.

Horrible how the revolution was being portrayed on Earth: extremists, communists, vandals, saboteurs, reds, terrorists. Never the words rebel or revolutionary, words of which half the Earth (at least) might approve. (7.2.58)

Ask any lawyer you want: sometimes whether or not a law is broken is all in the words used to describe the act. At least, we assume any lawyer would agree. We didn't actually ask any.