Study Guide

Red Mars Part 2, Chapter 4

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Part 2, Chapter 4

  • Knowing hallucination is a symptom of space breakdown, Maya finds she can't discuss seeing the unknown passenger with anyone.
  • Meanwhile, in the dining hall, she notices a definitive society has formed between the colonists. Not in how they talk shop, but in their conversations and demarcations regarding "those two great forms of the social dynamic, sex and politics" (2.4.5).
  • The sexual relations have grown more common and more complex. Janet, Mary, and Alex had a three-way affair going, and Janet thinks they might be a panmixia—i.e., a society where every male has relations with every female. Ooh la la… or something like that.
  • These secret sexual lives get Maya wondering if some other secret lives might be in existence—think: small groups with their own agendas.
  • Mars draws closer.
  • Janet gives up her reporting duties because the crew has begun treating her as an outsider, and she wants back in.
  • Mission Control demands they get the newsfeed feeding again as they're in a critical stage where public opinion is important. The problem is resolved (kind of) when Frank suggests they just use the video from the camera robots.
  • Maya and Frank begin divvying up the work to be done at Mars. Arkady's group wants the task of creating a space station on Phobos, Mars's moon, but Phyllis and Mary complain that they can't trust Arkady and his people to follow directions. Then there's Ann Clayborne and her highly coveted geological survey. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
  • Frank and Maya try to get the crew to reach a consensus, but even then, they complain. The original one hundred have become fractured by politics and self-interest.
  • Maya awakens one night after a dream featuring the unknown man from the farm. She heads to the bubble dome, where she meets John Boone.
  • The two hook up.
  • When word gets around, Maya and John become a powerful political force. Although Maya doesn't love John, she does find the sex enjoyable and John to be a good friend, and she likes the political leverage the relationship gives her. So win-win-win.
  • One night, she finally tells John about the unknown man. To her relief, he doesn't think she's crazy but discusses the matter rationally with her. John tells her they're friends, she can talk about this stuff with him.
  • As they approach Mars, the real work begins. The crew must prepare the ship and make the micro-calculations necessary to safely navigate Mars's gravity well.
  • The Ares hits Mars's thin atmosphere and the force make for an uncomfortable ride, but they manage to come out the other side and in orbit of Mars. Phew.
  • The crew spends long hours preparing for their decent to Mars, Phobos, and the like. Many hours are spend in EVA—a.k.a. Extravehicular Activity—or spacewalking.
  • Even as their Martian life grows imminent, Maya and Frank continue to try to forge a consensus between the various political factions.
  • During their "Looks Like We Made It" celebratory dinner, Arkady tries his hand at grand speech-making again, and although the others argue that Mars is a scientific station, he claims that nothing is free from the all-encompassing web of politics.
  • As a result, Arkady argues for a revolution, of a sort. They must not only transform the landscape of Mars; they must also transform themselves and make a utopia free from the mistakes of the past (read: Earth).
  • Others disagree.
  • Later, Phyllis argues that survival, not utopia, should be their aim right now; Michel reassures her that on Mars the group will pull together once again.
  • Sax is simply reminded of that old saying that "hell is other people" and hopes they don't prove the hypothesis.
  • A few days later, Maya makes her descent to the planet's surface with Sax, Vlad, Nadia, and Ann. She understands that the colonists are going their separate ways from here on in, led by their separate beliefs. She has failed them, and they are "no more than a collection of strangers" (2.4.150).
  • No turning back now, though.