Red Mars is no mere romp across the red planet, nor is it a simple story of survival. It's an epic of colonization, chronicling in painstaking detail and moving lyricism the lives of its first colonists as they travel to Mars, study the planet, and lay the foundations for a new world.
The scope is grand -- the movements of the plot, from the two years' journey aboard the Ares to the catastrophic upheavals after colonization, are long and intricate; the descriptions of Mars are breathtaking; and themes such as the human/environment relationship and the utopian endeavor commingle beautifully. Robinson takes his time, giving his readers space to inhabit his world.
Based solely on how well Robinson handles the scope, I will happily read more of his novels. This is what I love most about hard science fiction. But he is also good at giving real human depth to his characters -- a talent that many readers seem to struggle to find in hard sci-fi, and a talent that, I think, is hard to find in any writer. Robinson's got the whole package, so I relish the chance to read everything else that he has written.