Study Guide

Red Mars Part 8, Chapter 2

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Part 8, Chapter 2

  • Ann sits inside the rover thinking about how Mars is being altered forever. Meanwhile, Michel's driving to the Marineris canyons like a 21st-century bootlegger.
  • He explains to them how the rover is camouflaged so they won't be seen in the canyon. Also, they have supply caches en route for, you know, supplies.
  • Ann's mind drifts once Michel and Sax begin talking about the terraforming process; she thinks of Peter and feels helpless.
  • Michel shows them the route they'll take, and he and Kasei drive nonstop to get them somewhere bomb-free. Another dust storm kicks up.
  • Days pass. They come to Melas Chasma, the largest canyon of the Valles Marineris system, which makes the Grand Canyon look like something a child dug on the beach.
  • They rest that day, but by mid-afternoon, the ground begins to shake and a flood of water begins to wind its way through the canyons. Yes, the canyons they planned to use as an escape route. Didn't want this finale to be too easy, did you?
  • The water amounts to a hundred Amazon Rivers. Sax tries to keep his excitement hidden from Ann, but she totally reads his poker face.
  • They manage to escape the worst of the flood, but the noise means they have to yell just to talk to each other.
  • Sax stays in his chair doing calculations. He has a few theories but one thing is for certain: Red Mars is no more.
  • The flood complicates their travel plans just a touch. They have to reconnaissance a route on foot, and they find one, but it's still rough and they lose it to a type of trapdoor of boulders. Like kids crammed into a motor home for an open road vacation, they go on with a single car.
  • Things get easier until they arrive at Geneva Spur, at which point some of them have to get out and navigate the rover. Except for Ann and Sax—Sax being at his computer and Ann in the throws of depression.
  • On and on they travel, from the eastern end of Melas to the North Coprates to Dover Gate—all featured in the Top 1001 Vacation Spots No One Will Ever Visit.
  • Sax asks Ann if she knew the Compton aquifer was this big. She tells him she did, and the realization that Ann concealed data mystifies Sax.
  • He lets her know he wouldn't have terraformed the planet this way, and Ann tells him she knows. Hey, it's the closest these two will ever get to kissing and making up, so it's something.
  • They drive on. During a late meal, Ann looks on at her fellow travelers and understands she's been a burden to them. She picks herself up by the bootstraps—or whatever they use for bootstraps—and washes the dishes. Ann is back.
  • Ashamed at her inactivity, she takes up driving for longer periods than anyone.
  • Another day, Maya wonders if they could just wait out the flood, but the food stock is too low, so onward they go.
  • Twenty-three days after Cairo, and everyone is exhausted. In catching up with her companions, Ann has become exhausted, too.
  • The way gets harder, the food lower, and the caches of supplies have disappeared in the altered landscape. In short, weaksauce.
  • For an entire day, Ann drives. When they reach a rough spot, Frank forgets the Army's number one rule—to never volunteer for anything—and volunteers to guide the rover.
  • They go slowly, but Ann becomes distracted by the spectacle and gets the rover stuck in a hole of sand and snow.
  • Frank goes to put the grip clothes under the front wheel when a massive swell of water comes. Frank yells at them to go, that he'll jump on as they drive by, but when they escape the surge, they don't find Frank on the rover.
  • They return for search and rescue but find no sign of the man.
  • Maya breaks down but tells Ann she knows it was an accident—Ann's not so sure, though.
  • More driving. Michel decides they'll hit an old colony of theirs. It's not in use anymore but should have supplies and give them an opportunity to stretch their legs.
  • Ann drives during the night, the guilt eating at her.
  • Michel makes plans to have them walk the rest of the way so as not to leave a tire trail in the snow. At dawn, they spot their destination but decide to wait it out until that night. Caution and such.
  • Unable to sleep, Ann leaves the rover. Overcome with guilt and sorrow, she turns off her walker's heating unit and attempts suicide.
  • We say attempts because her husband, Simon—remember that quiet guy?—snatches her up and brings her back to the rover.
  • There he gives her a little piece of his mind before breaking down.