the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Mars

Let’s kick of Vintage month with something nice and truly old, shall we?

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

published in 1917 (but serialized earlier)

where I got it: purchased used. This cover art is the version I bought it is from Fall River Press, printed in 2011, with cover art by Kekai Kotaki.

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A Princess of Mars is one of those sword and sorcery / planetary romances that I’ve been meaning to read for ages.  The movie came out in 2012 got mixed reviews, but I loved the visuals, thought the Tharks were great, and gently ignored the plotting that made no sense. Anyone who is anyone has named Barsoom as an influence to their love of science and science fiction – Carl Sagan, James Cameron, George Lucas, and Ray Bradbury, just to name a few.

Blending science fiction, fantasy, pulp adventure and western, John Carter is the epitome of the American Man – strong and independent, intelligent and well spoken, very handsome, keeps his promises and knows how to throw a good punch. Guys wanna be him and girls wanna date him.  If this book had been written today, John Carter would be conceited. He’d *know* he was the hero of the story. In the words and the mentality of nearly a hundred years ago, he’s just a man who does what needs needs to be done with grace and dignity.

This book is nearly a hundred years old.  The statute of limitations has run out on spoilers, so sorry, but I’m going to tell you what happens at the end. Copyright has run out too, and the book is in the public domain now and on Project Gutenberg, and an audio is also available as a  free download on Librivox.

After a mishap in Arizona, Carter wakes up on Mars, also known as Barsoom.  Thanks to the lower Martian gravity, Carter finds he can jump and leap incredibly far, and his muscles, developed for the gravity of Earth, offer him what is seen as super strength on Mars.  Shortly after arriving, he runs into a band of Tharks the 15 foot tall green men of Mars, led by Tars Tarkus, and is taken back to their camp as a curiosity/prisoner. He looks like the humanoid red men of Mars, but he can’t speak their language, and he hasn’t a clue about Barsoomian customs.   A Thark woman, Sola, is assigned to Carter to help him learn their language and customs, and he is guarded by Woola, a watch-dog of sorts.  I thought it was hilarious that Carter can’t bring himself to call Woola a dog, so he calls him a “watch-thing”.

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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach

published in 2010

Where I got it:  the library

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Beyond the obvious, food, water, energy, what would we need for a trip to Mars? The aeronautical engineers have already done all the math for us, they know to within a miligram exactly how much food and water can get sent up in a rocket needing how much fuel.  But what about everything else?

What about everything we take for granted down on Earth, that suddenly become much more difficult when there is little to no gravity?  What kind of clothes would you wear? how would you take a shower?  Can you eat a sandwich? Enjoy the smell of vanilla flavored cookies? What goes in must go out, so how would you go to the bathroom in zero gravity? Even worse, what if free fall makes you sick to your stomach?

Leave to to Mary Roach to find the truth, the deepest darkest details of what we need for space.  From parabololic flights on NASA’s specially outfitted military plane (known coloquially as the vomit comet) to speaking with Russian cosmonauts, polar scientists, veterenary food specialists and marine biologists, Roach finds that everything that could possibly go up in a rocket or shuttle must be tested, tested, and tested some more by folks willing to sleep for weeks or experience high end G-forces.

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As I’ve got a shelf of Heinlein and Asimov, and some other golden oldies, I hope to make Catching Up With Classics a semi-regular feature.   The old skool stuff might not be as high tech, but it’s got it’s value. Depending on when you were born you either grew up with this stuff, or if you were born a little later I’ll bet most of your favorite SF authors grew up on this stuff.  Let’s kick it off with Robert Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars.

Podkayne of Mars, by Robert Heinlein

written in: 1963 (but reprinted last year!)

where I got it: purchased for pennies at an estate sale

why I read it: Because one can never read too much Heinlein.

She might be only eight and a half in Mars years, and over twenty in Venus years, but in Earth years Podkayne Fries is in her late teens, and  a total  babe.  Bright but sheltered, beautiful but bi-racial, she’s about to learn that Mars really is the backwater.  

Through a “happy” accident followed by a lucrative out of court settlement, Poddy finds herself travelling first class through the solar system with her bratty but brilliant brother and her politician uncle. The book is written as entries into her digital diary, and occasionally her brother hacks in and leaves funny messages.

The blurb on the back of the book is especially hilarious:
Tomorrow’s answer to the anti-missile-missile, Podkayne of Mars. An interplanetary bombshell who rocked the constellations when she invaded the Venus Hilton and attached the mighty mechanical men with a strange, overpowering blast of highly explosive Sex Appeal.

Makes you think the whole thing is a raunchy romance, doesn’t it?  Believe me when I say Podkayne of Mars is completely rated PG.   Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.