Study Guide

Red Mars Rules and Order

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Rules and Order

Rules were made for two things: following and breaking. You either keep your toe on the line or you step over it. But perhaps there is a third option: maybe rules were made for changing? That's certainly the question Red Mars wants us to ask on the subject.

In the novel, there are plenty of rules that need to be broken, especially with regard to the laws aiding those dubious transnationals. On the other hand, some rules are better kept in place—like, maybe, the one that prevented Sax from dropping an asteroid into Mars. But the novel offers a third option: creating new rules to meet new circumstances. The tried and true is sometimes neither tried nor true—so the real trick is knowing which is which, and when to act.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. Name a rule the novel seems to suggest we follow. What is that rule, where do you see it advocated in Red Mars, and what does this suggest to you about the theme?
  2. Name a social rule the novel seems to suggest we do away with all together. What is that rule, and what does this suggest to you about the theme?
  3. And the grand finale: name a rule the novel seems to suggest we change. What is that rule, what is the change suggested, and what does this tell to you about the theme?

Chew on This

Arkady seems to be a revolutionary anarchist at first glance, but he's really just substituting one set of social rules for a different set of social rules.

John and Frank both desire to change the rules between Mars and Earth's relationship. The conflict between them arises due to the nature of the rules they want changed.