I think I wanted a Science Fiction section included in the Outpost Library just so I could review the three books in Ben Bova's Mars series. I found Red Mars in an airport (can't remember where or when) and bought the next two as soon as I could get to a book store.
The very long storyline takes place over almost 300 years and fully explores the process and ramifications of going to, paying for, and colonizing the Red Planet. The entire story, told in three volumes, is incredibly detailed, with exceptional character development and wonderful sensory and technical descriptions of the Martian landscape.
The initial premise, and the base all three books are built on, is the exploration, terraforming and eventual inhabitation of Mars because, as in so many sci-fi/futuristic story lines, Earth is a mess. However, Robinson takes the reader through a process that involves politics, murder, socio-economic issues, survival, diversity, and deep space exploration. And don't forget life, death, birth and taxes. The science is not too heavy to be understood by most relatively intelligent readers, and he does not hit you over the head with it, kinda walks you through it. Gently.
In the beginning, we are introduced to part of the "First Hundred". An unusual cross-section of characters, ethnically and culturally diverse, who are going to take this great leap of faith and technology and go to Mars. John Boone, Frank Chalmers, Maya Toitovna, Nadia Cherneshevsky, Ann Clayborne and Phyllis Boyle. And wait till you meet Hiroko Ai - a really unique personality with a strong impact on the storyline from start to finish. The description and development of these people are integral to understanding the story as it unfolds. Some of them you will like, and some you will hate, but they will keep you interested.
One warning about this book: there are no space battles in fancy fighters, no aliens, no supernatural "force" to contend with. You will get contradicting politics, corporate intervention, industrial evil and religious environmentalism. It is wonderfully written, and if you go into it carefully, with very real expectations of an incredible adventure that will take a long time, you will be rewarded with a superb reading experience. And then, read the next one!
Title: Red Mars