Study Guide

Red Mars Part 4, Chapter 2

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Part 4, Chapter 2

  • Michel Duval dreams of home. Specifically, he dreams about the wind and waves of August at the Villefranche-sur-Mer, but for all intents and purposes, home, a.k.a. Earth.
  • The phone rings. Ursula and Phyllis just want him to know that Maya is having another fit. Michel sighs about how crazy Maya is—sexy, but crazy.
  • In fact, Michel would argue Maya is a specific type of crazy. Her craziness comes from a long line of Russian women who both resent and need men, loving and destroying them simultaneously.
  • He talks with Maya and understands that she would never look this distraught in front of the rest of Underhill. This is the intimacy of their relationship.
  • As he talks with Maya, he finds it difficult to concentrate on her problems. They'll be different next week anyway, so why bother?
  • He asks her to go for a walk. They walk to the great salt pyramids. Seems the colonists have collected so much salt that they just use the stuff for giant-sized building blocks. Sax is still working on a more practical purpose.
  • They come to the lichen farm, and Michel remembers that Hiroko called it Viriditas, or "greening power."
  • The two drive out to the arcade and look at the great trenches of plant life. Most of the terrariums are filled with spruce; it's Nadia's way of making Mars a little bit more like herself, Michel guesses.
  • Seeing Nadia work, Michel notes that she is the opposite of Maya—Maya is labile, Nadia stable.
  • Maya and Michel continue to talk. She says her life feels like a big simulation, and Michel registers this since it's not something she'd usually say.
  • In fact, for Michel, this life is all too real. Maya may be used to the cold coming from Russia, but for him, the cold is an ever-present reminder of how real this life is.
  • He has not adapted to Mars. Michel Duval is like the misplaced boy at a life-long summer camp: homesick.
  • In trying to get a grasp on the personalities of Underhill, Michel employs a Greimas semantic (or semiotic) rectangle.
  • Okay, now we have to tackle those graphs. They can be a tad confusing, so bare with us.
  • Basically a Greimas semantic rectangle just charts the relationship between different signs. S is your base (white/life/extrovert). –S is the base's opposite (black/death/stabile). Ṡ is contrary to S but complements -S (not-white/not-life/labile). And -Ṡ is contrary to –S but complements S (not-black/not-death/introvert). If you wish to know more, feel free to take a look at this page.
  • At the end of all that charting, Michel creates a system that explains the personalities of the original colonists by way of the four humors model—albeit substituting the mysticism for psychology.
  • After this slight detour, Michel finds himself in the Alchemists' Quarter, wondering if Sax and his people could turn lead into gold. Sax says it would be impossible because those are two different elements.
  • Michel starts mentally categorizing the colonists according to his semantic rectangle, and when he steps out of his own head, he finds he's now at the foot of the Great Salt Pyramid without any recollection of how he got there. You'd think that'd be worrisome, but the guy just climbs the four hundred stairs carefully.
  • At the summit, he wonders why he worked so hard to come to Mars—all he can think about is his beloved Earth, specifically France.
  • No one in Underhill speaks French. Well, Frank does, but he's just awful at it.
  • When talking with those from home, all Michel does is stare into the background.
  • He loses touch again. Now he's in the TV lounge, where he finds himself imagining Maya as a lover.
  • He dreams of home again. Now he's walking the limestone parapet of Les Baux, but when he wakes up, he's still on Mars.
  • Times passes. The "Michel program walk[s] around, a hollow persona, empty inside, only some tiny homunculus on the cerebellum left to teleoperate the thing" (4.2.74). Yep, they definitely should have sent two shrinks to Mars.
  • One night, he goes to bed and is awoken by the sound of his door opening—it's a strange man telling Michel to come with him.
  • He follows, asking who the man is, but instead of an answer, he is taken to the farm.
  • Inside the farm, Michel discovers children. By the by, there should be no children on Mars. Yet here the knee-biters are.
  • Hiroko and her cronies have not only started a type of family but also a religious movement that worships the viriditas in the way ancient Japan worshiped the Kami.
  • Michel takes part in a ceremony where he eats the soil of Mars, and afterward, he is initiated into areophany by a ceremony of sexual congress.
  • Hiroko says they are going to a hidden place they have built, claiming their goal is to build here what Michel so desperately wants.
  • Michel agrees to go with them.