Robert Heinlein, Red Planet (1949)

Red Planet

Well, I finished Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet from 1949 (one of his ‘juveniles’) and it was an altogether enjoyable read. The young and timid protagonist lives on a Martian colony with his exotic pet and staunch best friend. They are all whisked off to a Martian boarding school where they encounter a draconian headmaster and a rapacious company scheme which would be disastrous for their colonist parents back home.

It’s a simple coming of age story of friendship and overthrowing authority. The Martian landscape is depicted romantically; beautiful, mysterious, and full of peril; a world of vast ice-filled canals, ancient native cities, exotic vegetation and dangerous creatures. The Martians are enigmatic, a twelve-foot, three-legged race of mystics whose spirituality and forbearance are contrasted with the rapacity of some of the human colonists.

There’s also a recurring subtext about the nature of a frontier society, the general idea being that these people should not live by the same ideas as settled societies. Here, colonists should be more daring, self sufficient, distrusting, and even adolescents should carry guns and be prepared to fight in the name of freedom.

All of these unfashionably red-blooded fancies, traditional storytelling, exotic visuals and unabashed masculine displays won me over. 3/5

Note: the pictured edition is the censored print. Post-90’s prints restore the text to Heinlein’s original intentions, with more fleshed-out characterisation and mature themes.

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