Of course the readings assigned don’t necessarily correlate, but they do in ideas to a degree. The defining characteristic of Red Mars is its size. It is daunting, heavy and dense as far as it reads. That’s not to say that it is some ultra-elevated example of prose to the point of shrinking in fear from it, but the pages are populated with words and sometimes when your thumb has been on an area for long enough, the words rub off on your hand. We are inundated with words, with descriptions with images of Mars throughout, from the long section about physics that Robinson includes, to early on in the Crucible where each paragraph begins with “She” and includes a description of some action on Mars.
There is “She” and there is Mars. There is Mars as we know because there is she.
Van Wyck’s introduction makes an argument about the possibility of a world where the effects of human activity exist but the people do not exist. Including the picture, he claims that even though we are imagining a time 10,000 years from now, we cannot even imagine ourselves not in it. Of course not. Even to place that sort of image in our head, we do not see it from a sort of third-person omniscience. Any attempt to tell a story automatically places the humanity in the story and it becomes irremovable. Even in 10,000 years from now as we look at it, there have to be people, otherwise how can we understand such a time? Does it exist so far as we do not?
I think this may be something that Robinson is trying to get at. There are countless descriptions of the planet Mars. But the book didn’t start with anything other than “And so we came here.” Mars does not exist without a human description of it. At each point, there s some grand word painting of what Mars is like and at all of those points, it is because the people are there and are inhabiting the planet. It is not relevant where it is really. Description is a uniquely human faculty—to be able to put things in words for a relative purpose is an ability only humans happen. Mars was a place before humans were there, but it served no purpose almost, or seemed at the utmost irrelevant. Now that there are people inhabiting it, it is full of things to describe.