The Mars trilogy is a series of three science fiction novels by Kim Stanley Robinson, chronicling the settlement and terraforming of the planet Mars. The novels are Red Mars (1992), Green Mars (1993) and Blue Mars (1996). An additional collection of short stories was published as The Martians (1999).
Red Mars starts in 2027 with the first colonial voyage to Mars. Later, "the First Hundred" colonists (composed — for the most part — of Russians and Americans) establish the first settlement on Mars (called "Underhill") and lay the groundwork for more scientists and engineers to follow. However, due to the greed of the transnational corporations, which dominate and control the nation states of Earth, the new Martian towns become overcrowded and undermaintained. Several cases of sabotage of terraformation infrastructure occur, blamed on anti-terraforming forces. The situation results in a violent revolution in 2061, in which many of the First Hundred are killed, and much of Mars' infrastructure, notably the space elevator, is destroyed. Most of the surviving members of the First Hundred are forced into hiding.
Green Mars takes its title from the stage of terraforming that has taken place allowing plants to grow. It picks up the story from Red Mars, following the lives of the remaining First Hundred (and their children and grandchildren) until a second revolution begins in the 2120s.
Blue Mars takes its title from the stage of terraforming that has taken place allowing atmospheric pressure and temperature to increase so that liquid water can exist on the planet's surface, forming rivers and seas. It follows on from the end of Green Mars and has a much wider scope than the previous two books, covering an entire century after the second revolution and showing the spread of human settlements across the solar system - a process Robinson terms the Accelerando.
The Martians is a collection of short stories that takes place over the timespan of the original trilogy of novels, as well as some stories that take place in an alternate version of the novels where the First Hundred's mission was one of exploration rather than colonisation.
The books also speculate on the colonization of other planets and moons in the solar system, and include descriptions of cities on Callisto, Mercury, Titania, and Venus.
A great portion of Blue Mars is concerned with the effects of extreme longevity on its fictional protagonists, most of whom have lived over two hundred years as a result of repeated longevity treatments. In particular, Robinson speculates on the psychological effects of ultra-longevity including memory loss, personality change, mental instability and boredom.
- John Boone, an American astronaut. He was the first man on Mars. After returning from Mars, he is a public hero, and uses his considerable influence to lobby for another mission to Mars, this time a colonization mission. Boone received too much radiation on his first trip to make the second one, according to medical regulations; however, his celebrity allows him to skirt this as well. On the second voyage, Boone is one of the first hundred colonists sent to permanently colonize Mars. His accomplishments and natural charm yield him an informal leadership role. John Boone is assassinated in the first chapter of Red Mars. The narrative then steps back to the first hundred's voyage to Mars aboard the spaceship Ares. Afterwards, his ideas continue as a point of reference for the remainder of the trilogy. Boone's character is complex. In one light, Boone is a stereotypically simple, heroic figure, an everyman hero: his first words on his first trip to Mars are "Well, here we are". He is almost uniformly cheerful and good-natured, and approaches everything he undertakes with hale bonhomie. But later in Red Mars, Robinson switches to Boone's point of view, rather than showing him through others' eyes. This section reveals that late in life, Boone is addicted to omegendorph, a fictional drug that is based on endorphins in the human brain. In addition, it reveals that at least some of his seeming simplicity might simply be an act designed to further his political goals. However, the multiplicity of viewpoints (Boone is shown from his own viewpoint, from that of Frank Chalmers, and from that of Maya Toitovna) confuse the issue. Overall, Boone is presented as larger-than-life — his flaws as well as his virtues.
- Frank Chalmers, head of the American contingent. He is machiavellian in his use of power.
- Maya Toitovona, an emotional woman who is at the centre of a love triangle between Boone and Chalmers. Head of the Russian contingent.
- Nadia Chernyshevski, a Russian engineer. She builds the first permanent habitation of Mars.
- Arkady Bogdanov, Russian. An engineer with anarchist/Marxist leanings.
- Sax Russell, American physicist. Russell is a leader of the Green movement (a movement whose goal is to terraform Mars) and also a brilliant and creative scientist.
- Ann Clayborne, American geologist, who wants Mars preserved in its pristine state. She becomes a leader of the Red movement which is dedicated to this goal.
- Hiroko Ai, is a Japanese expert on biology, agriculture, and ecological systems. She is also the charismatic leader of the "farm team", one of the important work groups and cliques among the first hundred. She thus becomes the focus of many of the trilogy's central themes. Most importantly, she teaches the importance of maintaining a respectful relation to one's home world planet. On Mars, this is called the Areophany. The influence of Hiroko, who is seldom at the center of the narrative, is pervasive. As an absent central character, her role is akin to that of Harry Lime in The Third Man.
- Michel Duval, a French psychologist, assigned to monitor the psychological welfare of the First Hundred.
- Vlad Taneev, Russian biological scientist. He is the head of all medical treatment and research projects on Mars. He creates a gerontological treatment to stave off old age.
- Phyllis Boyle, a Christian geologist, who favors corporate exploitation of Mars. She eventually sides against most of the first hundred.
- Desmond "the Coyote" Hawkins, the stowaway from Trinidad. He is a friend and supporter of Hiroko, in addition to being a fervent anarchist.
- Arthur "Art" Randolph, a representative of the Praxis corporation sent to contact the Martian underground movement on a quasi-diplomatic mission.