I have been back and forth to Mars many times, starting from when I was a kid. I love it when NASA has a probe, like Curiosity, on the planet that is sending back images. The Red Planet is fascinating and humans have observed and studied it for thousands of years. But I’ve been going there for decades due to great science fiction writers.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) was selling pencil sharpeners to make a living when he decided that he could write fiction as “rotten” as what he was reading in pulp-fiction novels. Under the Moons of Mars, his first fictional story, was published one hundred years ago. The Barsoom series, set on Mars, amounted to more than a dozen books in the next fifty years, while Burroughs rose to greater fame for his Tarzan books in those same years. I read every one of the books in both series and some of them two and three times. The Barsoom series is available today as Kindle books on Amazon.com. John Carter, his main character in the series, emerged recently as the title character in a major motion picture. I thought it had overdone special effects and was weak on story, but my imagination has locked those characters in my brain and the movie was totally unlike what I remember from the books.
Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) was another great science fiction writer who took me to Mars. The Red Planet (1949) and Podkayne of Mars (1963) were memorable books by the man dubbed “The Dean of Science Fiction.” Many of his contemporaries, also well regarded, considered him the best sci-fi author ever. I was especially taken with his stories and read them over and over again through my high school years. Heinlein was a trained scientist in math and physics. He and his wife took many ocean voyages on freighters as well as passenger ships, which gave him ideas for journey on space vehicles. His books created other worlds and shipboard experiences that felt real. They still sell well and now have all new audiences as Kindle books for e-readers. Judging from the reviews of the Kindle versions, they are still finding an eager audience today.
Many other authors have taken on Mars as a subject. I just read Saving Mars and Defying Mars by Cidney Swanson. I was pulled through each of these highly rated books in a matter of hours. Like Heinlein’s best books they have believable stories, great characters and reveal the challenges of humans living in the sparse atmosphere of the red planet. Swanson’s books are considered young adult (YA) novels as our book, The Leopard Tree, is. I may not be in the target age market but I will follow this series as closely as any other reader. It is a great read on a subject I enjoy.
Books that are well-written with captivating characters and compelling stories will always have a much broader audience than their target markets. Some of the best books I have ever read were oriented toward younger readers. I will keep going to Mars via my iPad these days with hopes that the space program is allowed to continue real exploration.