This three-part series (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) describes a future in which medical advances on earth extends human longevity to extremes, which in turn leads to overpopulation. These “push” motivations combine with the “pull” motivation of mining resources to lure a small population of explorers to travel to Mars.

At first, a UN treaty governs the planet as a common resource of mankind. However, transnational corporations (“metanats”) have grown more powerful than many nation states, and are willing to break these rules and renegotiate the treaty for their benefit. At the same time, terraforming efforts begin to increase the humidity and average temperature of Mars to around 270 degrees Kelvin.

The second book goes deeper into ecology and economics. After a violent conflict, Mars’ residents convene to set up their own constitution. Centrally plans for terraforming break down as different groups desire different average temperatures for the planet: some want the minimum necessary to sustain life while maintaining a semblance of Martian distinctness, while others believe “warmer is better” and seek a more Earth-like clime. This description of a centrally planned environment sheds light on both the history of centrally planned economies, and contemporary debates around preservation and what point in the past we identify as the goal to be restored.

In the third book, we see the aftermath of a revolution on Mars, and a second attempt to set up planet-wide governance. Extension and expansion of longevity treatments have bifurcated society into a richer, older group, and a younger, poorer group of both nations and societies (somewhat reflecting contemporary reality on Earth). Refusing additional longevity treatments begins to be viewed as a form of suicide, raising interesting ethical questions. The tension between local and global governance is put into even starker contrast when your planet is “default dead.”

I would recommend this series to anyone with an interest in politics, economics, or ethical questions of the near future.