To Polly’s dismay, her mother–the administrator of Mars Colony–has signed up Polly and her brother Charles to the earth school Galileo Academy where the teens will rub shoulders with the progeny of the solar system’s elite. Polly and Charles were born on Mars and have lived there all their lives; but while Charles considers schooling on Earth as useful, Polly knows she’ll miss Mars and doesn’t want to give up her own plans.
Here at EBR we love us some Carrie Vaughn. We’ve reviewed several of her Kitty Norville books as well as a couple of her standalones, DISCORD’S APPLE (EBR Review) and AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE (EBR Review). Now her newest book, MARTIANS ABROAD is another standalone in the vein of Heinlein’s Young Adult books (such as CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY–EBR review) mixed with a little STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND–only our protagonist is a teenage girl.
One would think that learning about Earth–a thing readers would know very well–from the point of view of someone who’s never been here would be a boring storyline. However, Vaughn’s portrayal of Polly’s experiences is swiftly engaging and compelling, from her acclimation to gravity, the food, open sky, and rain. But for Polly, the hardest thing to get used to is the attitudes of the students toward the first Martians to attend the prestigious school. Polly is the kind of girl who loves the rush of adventure and taking risks; but it also makes her the kind of girl who’s less inclined to take rudeness from her peers (and adults). Her genius brother Charles kind of acts as her conscience. He can be an enigma to Polly, with his silent observations and subtle manipulations. Charles knows his sister has a tendency to cause trouble and advises her to lay low as the school year starts–it’s already too easy for the first Martian students to draw attention to themselves.
Polly can’t help but cause trouble, though. Galileo Academy and its administrators are so strict, they practically beg for students to rebel. Charles does his best to appeal to her better nature, and to her dream to become a pilot–since no training programs will take a pilot who has black marks from being naughty in school. Until she learns that their first field trip is to see the ocean.
Not only does MARTIANS ABROAD treat us with interesting and well-drawn characters, but Vaughn creates a future universe that’s easy to visualize because despite the advances in technology, human behavior doesn’t change a whole lot. It’s interesting to see how everyday lives could change in the future–yet still be similar to today in many ways. Vaughn explores what it would be like to live on Mars, life on space stations, travel between planets, and even a Manhattan that becomes an island-sized cultural museum.
If you’ve despaired as a parent with finding modern Science Fiction for your teens, MARTIANS ABROAD is for you. Unlike some of the current dystopian or YA Science Fiction (ugh, like CONQUEST)–which, let’s face it, are more soap opera than genre fiction–Vaughn’s take on YA SciFi is a refreshing mix of teen drama and science.
Recommended Age: 13+
Sex: Some teenage crushing
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