You need to know what you're getting into before you embark upon reading this novel. If you're in the mood for an in-depth and realistic chronicle of how humanity might go about the colonisation of Mars in the not to distant future, if you love hard science fiction, if seeing how huge technical problems are overcome with spectacular feats of engineering excites you, if a somewhat slow-paced and long-winded story doesn't bore you and a large cast of generally realistic but not particularly sympathetic characters don't turn you off, this is definitely the book for you.
I had a fair idea what to expect before I picked this up and I was in the mood for it. Sending a carefully selected team of scientists on a colonisation mission reminded me of Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, being a chronicle of the colonisation of Mars reminded me of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and a future history account of the an attempt to establish a new and utopian society reminded me of Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy but really this is like none of those. This feels much more modern applying the latest scientific ideas. One really gets a sense of the author's passion and detailed knowledge of Mars in this book. And so the story plays out a deeply convincing world which the author authoritatively creates for the reader.
Now I find myself contemplating whether to proceed onto the sequels. Not immediately, that's for sure. I need a break and am not used to reading books this long. But I would like to revisit Mars one day and find out what happens to colony's remnants, and what kind of world they can make for themselves.