Study Guide

Saxifrage Russel, a.k.a. Sax in Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Saxifrage Russel, a.k.a. Sax

Every space exploration needs its clichéd scientist. You know, the guy who walks around in a lab coat and can only comprehend the world and its people through scientific motives and terminology. And for the First Hundred, that scientist is none other than the owlish Sax Russel.

This is a man who assumes "problems [can be] disposed of by being defined" (2.3.24). He views the world through microscopes and cameras and generally only worries about it how it might affect his projects (7.3.71). And, yes, he wears a white lab coat (5.2.41).

With that said, there are hints that Sax is a very passionate man who just keeps his emotions in extreme check. Most notably, Ann notices Sax's excitement when the flood of the Valles Marineris forever alters the Martian landscape and his terraforming project (8.2.37). See? Scientists are people, too.

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

To be fair, Sax's character is built upon the clichéd scientists of many a pulp sci-fi novel. But he does evolve beyond them during the course of the book.

In fact, it's his ideology that is the foundation for the Green movement in the novel, making him something of a foil to Ann. While Ann claims that humans should fit into the universe as it is, Sax believes that:

Science is part of a larger human enterprise, and that enterprise includes going to the stars, adapting to other planets, adapting them to us. Science is creation. (3.6.122)

Sax's scientific philosophy states that knowledge is important, like Ann's—the difference for Sax is that knowledge isn't an end-goal, but instead a means. And it's a means to start building something, to see what human beings are capable of creating. By creating within the universe, Sax believes "we understand it" and "give it meaning" (6.3.121). And should destruction occur, well, destruction is part of nature, too. Right?

Unfortunately, Sax's determination to learn and create can disconnect him from the very world he's supposed to be changing, a reality that is largely symbolized by the fact that he constantly views said world through windows and video screens (8.2.56). He may be participating, but he's not necessarily connecting.