First of a projected trilogy about the near-future colonization of Mars, from the author of Pacific Edge, Escape from Kathmandu, etc. Robinson's Mars is realistically cold, arid, and lifeless; and even before they reach the planet, his first hundred scientist- colonists are hotly debating how Mars should be terraformed. Each phase of the latter process is told from a different character's point of view, and thus Robinson constructs an intricate and fascinating mosaic of science and politics, love and betrayal, survival and discovery, murder and revolution. Among further complications: practical immortality, discovered by Martian scientists; the building of a space elevator; ice asteroids to pound the Martian crust, bringing water and thickening the atmosphere; vast Moholes excavated to tap vital heat from the core; and the ingenious creation of life forms genetically engineered to survive the harsh conditions. Yet the constantly intensifying struggle between Mars's idealists and Earth's transnational corporate exploiters makes revolution inevitable; and a handful of First Hundred survivors flee into the Martian wilderness, where other idealists have secretly prepared hidden sanctuaries. Despite the imposing density of the narrative, a novel of splendid characters in a brilliantly realized and utterly convincing setting. A pity about the overfamiliar colonization- exploitation-revolution plot cycle; still, for power, scope, depth, and detail, no other Martian epic comes close.