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Red Planet

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Jim Marlow and his strange-looking Martian friend Willis were allowed to travel only so far. But one day Willis unwittingly tuned into a treacherous plot that threatened all the colonists on Mars, and it set Jim off on a terrfying adventure that could save--or destroy--them all!

From the Paperback edition.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1949

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About the author

Robert A. Heinlein

787 books9,283 followers
Works of American science-fiction writer Robert Anson Heinlein include Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966).

People often call this novelist "the dean of science fiction writers", one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction."

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the standards of literary quality of the genre. He was the first science-fiction writer to break into mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, in the late 1940s. He was also among the first authors of bestselling, novel-length science fiction in the modern, mass-market era.

Also wrote under Pen names: Anson McDonald, Lyle Monroe, Caleb Saunders, John Riverside and Simon York.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 464 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
April 15, 2020
This was, hands down, my favorite Heinlein book as a teen. I read it at least 4 or 5 times. I really need to read it again as an adult, but Heinlein ... always an iffy proposition. Though this is one of his early juvie novels, so it's safer than, say, Time Enough for Love.

Two teenage boys, part of the human colonies on Mars, are sent away to boarding school in the biggest city on Mars. In between getting into trouble with the new, insanely strict headmaster, they find out about a plot that could endanger both humans and the native Martians. It’s up to these two boys to save their hometown and their Martian friend from the nefarious forces of evil.

Heinlein is especially imaginative here, with the unique Martian civilization and the realistic (at least for the time) details about humans trying to survive in the hostile environment of Mars. There's a pretty heavy gun ownership rights theme running through this book that may irk some readers, the sexual roles are straight from the 1950s (Red Planet was written in 1949, so understandable enough), people in authority tend to be corrupt and/or incompetent, and you have to be able to suspend disbelief in light of what we now know about life on Mars. Other than that, it's a rockin' story!

But no matter what, I will always adore Willis the Martian with my entire heart and soul.
Sing ¿Quién es la Señorita? one more time, Willis!
Profile Image for William.
676 reviews336 followers
November 26, 2021
This is THE ONE.

The first book to capture me.

It left my 12 year-old mind reeling and set my all-consuming, voracious hunger for sci-fi into motion.

Of course I had "read" other books in school, but Red Planet blew me away. I was transported.

Never to return.

(Warning: Heinlein was especially misogynistic in his earlier books. I'm sure it disturbed me even at 12 yrs old)

Here's the cover that I remember from 55 years ago.

Full size image here
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,251 reviews234 followers
April 19, 2023
“He’s an individual, you know. He’s not property.”

was a Robert Heinlein juvenile sci-fi written in 1949. The honest truth is that I’ve had this on my shelf for SO long that I have no recollection if this is a re-read or my first run through. But when push comes to shove, that doesn’t really matter. What CAN be said no is that in some respects RED PLANET aged quite well and in other respects, a modern reading is quite gruesome and almost painful.

On the surface, RED PLANET is the story of two young lads attending boarding school in a colony on Mars who find themselves subject to the vagaries of a pompous, cruel, capricious headmaster. This nasty piece of work also happens to be a notoriously self-interested lick spittle willing to endanger the lives of an entire colony to further the motives of the corporation that employs him. When the boys learn of a plan that would endanger their families and native Martians, they hit it on the lam and head for home across a bleak, dangerous, and hostile Martian landscape. The chase is on and, within the limitations of 1950s knowledge about possible conditions on Mars, RED PLANET succeeds in a walk as an exciting juvenile or young adult adventure novel within the sci-fi genre. Unlike many other sci-fi novels of the day, Heinlein deftly avoids the temptation to anthropomorphize his Martian natives and the attempt at cross-cultural communication and understanding is well done and extremely interesting. Sci-fi fans will be particularly charmed by Willis, one of the Martian natives who befriends the boys and refuses to leave their side.

But … there’s always a but … in fact, there are two buts.

The first is misogyny. OH MY GOD! Perhaps a couple of quotations will suffice to clearly demonstrate the level of misogyny that must have been endemic in 1950s America and was built into the cultural thinking that an author like Heinlein simply took for granted:

“Mind you, this is fine work, all of it – hard work, good work, that a man can get his teeth into.”
“Doc says that the company set-up is just one big happy family, and that the idea that it is a non-profit corporation is the biggest joke since women were invented.”
“You’re a girl; you’d better stay out from under foot.”
“Now this is a frontier society and any man old enough to fight is a man and must be treated as such – and any girl old enough to cook and tend babies is adult too.”

The second is American gun culture and their propensity to worship at the altar of gun rights that was clearly in force already during Heinlein’s life. And, for my money, it’s only got worse and worse. It’s enough to make a rational left-wing reader heave. How about these examples?

“I’m proud to have you be [a licensed gun wearer]. It means you are a responsible, trusted adult.” (Ha!! If only!)
“If all the people who had been killed with unloaded guns were laid end to end it would make quite a line up.” (Well, certainly nothing has changed in that regard)
“I’m not going to give up my gun. Dad wouldn’t want me to. I’m sure of that. Anyhow, I’m licensed and I don’t have to. I’m a qualified marksman. I’ve passed the psycho test, and I’ve taken the oath; I’m … entitled to wear a gun …” (Psycho tests? Whatever happened to a great idea like that?)
“When asked why he didn’t give the other chap a chance to draw, the survivor said, “Well, he’s dead and I’m alive and that’s how I wanted it to be”.” (Was this Kyle Rittenhouse’s great grandfather?)

There were more but I suspect you get the idea. The sad and disappointing part is that Heinlein got it absolutely right. These words and the sentiments behind them have been voiced thousands of times over by Americans of all political stripes in the last couple of years and it doesn’t look like the USA is pondering change any time soon.

Bottom line. RED PLANET gets a qualified recommendation. If you gag on guns, misogyny or any of the more obvious right-wing political opinions, you won’t be able to say you weren’t warned. If you can ignore that stuff, the story is well worth the time to read and enjoy.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
December 9, 2020
**** 2020 reread

Great juvenile from the Grandmaster, one of the best. This one, first published in 1949 and so one of his earliest also reveals some of the libertarian individualism that would be so ubiquitous in his later work.

We also see some previews of his ideas about Mars in his world building that would later be more fully explored in Stranger in a Strange Land. Clearly inspired, at least in part, by Bradbury.

Two teenage colonists on Mars get to know the local culture better while also evading arrest from some hinky authoritarians.

Good fun.

Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,256 followers
March 8, 2022
Heinlein created some neato aliens and paints a few nice audio/visual scenes that feel otherworldly. It's cool to see the beginning writer working through his craft and glimmers of what's to occasionally shine through here.
Profile Image for Scott.
Author 56 books24.3k followers
March 9, 2013
Another Heinlein juvenile, another curious blend of work by a virtuoso visionary and his unfortunate co-author the cheating hack.

THE GOOD: Heinlein's early treatment of his Martians (the ones used nearly two decades later in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND) is excellent. These guys are subtle and weird and so far beyond earth norms that every interaction with them is fraught and puzzling. Also, while you can see prototypical versions of many of his stock characters (crusty old Dr. MacReady is a stripped-down and far less annoying Jubal Harshaw), their excesses are restrained by the better sense of the people around them.

THE BAD: All the tension of the heroic stand-off with murderous forces of authority is defused when everyone in the ranks of that authority turn out to be cowards, simpletons, paranoids, and gross incompetents. Heinlein loved to stack his decks like this, and it does him no more credit here than it did anywhere else. Also, the treatment of gender is blindingly awful, even for 1948, especially for Heinlein. Boys in Martian society are accounted men when they can carry guns; girls are considered adults when they can cook and help with babies. You'd think a guy who could write something as mind-bendingly weird as Heinlein's Martians could apply some of that mental plasticity to an examination of the women of his own species.
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,225 reviews344 followers
August 28, 2019
This is a decent novel that has reasonably survived the test of time, at least as long as you know when this novel was published (the 1949's) People used to more modern-day sci fi might find this novel somewhat dated, but you know what, it's still a solid read, especially if you like old-school science fiction. It also ties in nicely with 'Stranger in a Strange Land' by the same author.
Profile Image for SciFiOne.
2,010 reviews28 followers
July 31, 2017
1976 grade B+
1992 grade B+
2016 grade B+

A novel about high school students in a private school run by dictatorial earth bureaucrats on a colonized hypothetical Mars. It starts out pretty routine but becomes much better and more adult less than half way through. The book could definitely be considered a precursor to Stranger In A Strange Land since it has the exact same martians and their culture. In fact this book describes them much better and I recommend reading it before Stranger if possible. The book also includes many of the Earth/Mars political relations that are further developed in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, although there is no direct connection between the two stories.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,813 reviews418 followers
July 20, 2016
The bad science doesn't bother me too much, but I can't get past the sexism and the contrived conflict. None of the bad guys had any competence? The good guys were automatically superior strategists, warriors, leaders, etc.? I'd give it one star, but the Martians were interesting, and treated with respect.

Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,041 followers
October 23, 2014
One of Heinlein's early YA books, it's about 2 young boys who wind up on an adventure on Mars. This is a Mars with water (frozen) in its canals, oxygen, but not enough for a human to breath unassisted. So if you like your SF with the latest science in place, this isn't for you.

Heinlien's young heroes are boy scouts, good kids with good intentions who buck the odds to do the right thing. They make discoveries beyond what the adults have done & face danger. They tough it out & make good, though. Happy ending!

I'd recommend it for any adult, but also for any young boy, maybe 3d grade reading level & up. (I'm probably wrong about 3d grade, get another opinion.) The language & ideas are pretty simple, but equally engaging for young & old.

There is a moral to the story; be brave, resourceful and - damn the consequences - do the RIGHT thing. I've seen worse messages in books, this one is pretty typical of all his YA books.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
1,002 reviews68 followers
January 25, 2022
In this Heinlein Juvenile, the teenaged protagonist Jim Marlowe and his buddy Frank Sutton are sent to boarding school on the other side of Mars, and bring Jim’s bouncing companion Martian roundhead that he has named Willis. But soon the nice headmaster retires, and is replaced by a mean headmaster – who is in cahoots with an evil planetary administrator who schemes to keep South Colony families stuck on the southern hemisphere during the bitter Mars winter. Willis has helped Jim and Frank gain the sympathies of the old Martians, through a ritual of water-sharing. This is a conception of Mars out of the mid-twentieth century genre-consensus Mars, with drying watery canals and a diminishing population of once-advanced Martians back in the hills. Interestingly, Heinlein re-uses many concepts from this particular Mars in his famous, but controversial, 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land. One thing leads to another, and eventually even Jim and Frank’s respectable fathers are drawn into a principled libertarian rebellion, with the aid of the friendly Martians.

This novel was written for 1940s boys, nearly a children’s book, and has not aged well. It goes beyond the gender stereotyping of the era to downright misogyny, with tossed off slams against girls and women. Then, there is the assertion that civil order on a frontier world can only be produced by responsible gun ownership by all male teenagers and men. Yet, even the good-guy-with-a-gun Jim has to be turned back repeatedly from his desire to simply shoot the mean headmaster. And there are plenty of bad-guys-with-guns on the same world. The good guys just need to shoot the bad guys. Sheesh. I feel others of the Heinlein Juveniles are recommended reading, but not his one. I’m not rating it a 1, because of its historical context.

From 1947 through 1958, Robert A. Heinlein wrote twelve young adult novels for Scribner’s, and these are today known as the “Heinlein Juveniles.” I read a number of them in 5th through 7th grade, when I was cruising through the science fiction section of the children’s room at my town’s public library. When I re-read one now, it’s always a challenge to try to remember whether I read it back then. In the case of Red Planet, I had not, so no nostalgia factor applied. The core twelve were:
#1 Rocket Ship Galileo (1947)
#2 Space Cadet (1948)
#3 Red Planet (1949)
#4 Farmer in the Sky (1950)
#5 Between Planets (1951)
#6 The Rolling Stones (aka Space Family Stone, 1952)
#7 Starman Jones (1953)
#8 The Star Beast (1954)
#9 Tunnel in the Sky (1955)
#10 Time for the Stars (1956)
#11 Citizen of the Galaxy (1957)
#12 Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)
In addition, Starship Troopers was written in 1959, but rejected by Scribner’s, ending RAH’s relationship with them. He also later wrote other YA novels such as Podkayne of Mars, but I do not consider those part of the set.
Profile Image for R.a..
133 reviews20 followers
September 4, 2015
3.8 stars

“Oh my gosh!”

Although a conservative, staid, and constrictive tradition lies behind the 1950s, U.S. pop culture, an odd and innocent sense of fun seems to accompany it.


After my immersion into Shirley Jackson’s dark and menacing world, Heinlein’s Red Planet, (1949), with this conservative yet fun 1950s aspect, became just the tonic I needed.

Setting a young adult/adult, science fiction adventure novel on Mars allows Heinlein to create an exciting story and world while simultaneously exploring ignorance and intelligence, arrogance and humility, materialism and faith, and surprisingly, gender!

Within the hero-villain adventure story plotline, the author sets these variously explored layers amidst an American Revolution-type frame. The Earth humans as Martian colonists experience repeated grievances and dictatorial threats, (very “Royal-like”), that mirror the original English colonies' sufferings, the crown's feudal mercantilist economy, and the colonies' escalating resistance. And so, echoes from Adams, Jefferson, and Paine emerge.

Heinlein succeeds in balancing his multiple ideas within genre and “story” expectations primarily through character, “world building,” and above all, plot.

Apparently, like any Heinlein novel, Red Planet possesses not only “clinks and clunks” that a reader can gloss over but endoxa and entrenched points-of-view that can make a contemporary reader cringe, well up with frustration, and even recoil in outright anger.

The author's reliance on the MacRae character to be his aged, curmudgeonly, all-at-once Everyman, (doctor, sage, linguist, diplomat, councilor, and combat platoon sergeant), irritates. The template for his later Stranger In a Strange Land Jubal character, MacRae, with his almost extreme, strident advocacy for “arms” or guns, strikes a nerve. His comments about paranoia simply are ignorant and inflammatory, making them "wrong" in both senses of the word. And, Heinlein's creation of a male-centered, constrictive-prescriptive world for women has sexist, even misogynist moments: “the womenfolk,” and “’That’s what comes of trusting women,’ he said, bitterly.”

And yet . . . Golly!

Despite all, Heinlein still creates an enjoyable tale that engages the reader on both the fun and thinking level.

Section by section, and chapter by chapter, readers will recognize prototypes, ideas, themes, and paradigms that have heavily influenced later science fiction tales and scripts. A few include:

—the government-private company alliance in Alien;
—the atmospheric processing stations in Aliens;
—the character and some functions of R2D2 in Star Wars;
—the "beach ball" alien in Dark Star;
—a feature of the environmental suits in Dune;
—and, the sub-plot, tunnels, and ice-water dynamic in Total Recall.

And, the causes, goals, and ideals of the American Revolution, as mirrored in Heinlein’s treatment, become ideas and values well worth the exploration.

Lastly, the most wonderful aspects of this fun and thoughtful adventure novel deal with the Martians themselves. Indeed, the creatures and their culture become the “stars” of the narrative. And, Heinlein wisely keeps much of their history and “world” in mystery. And, the Martian characters, even more than his MacRae character, allow the reader to reflect upon deeper ideas: humanity’s strengths, weaknesses, and limits; and, the human awareness of the need for others and “otherness.” Pretty “Neat-o” for a young adult/adult science fiction “romp.”

Confound it! For the love of Mike, I enjoyed Red Planet.
It’s a swell novel, it is.

Yes. Red Planet is a swell novel.
Profile Image for Mark.
564 reviews157 followers
February 12, 2013
This is one of an ongoing series of rereads, as I work through the Virginia Editions of Heinlein’s novels.

Red Planet was Heinlein’s third published novel, after Space Cadet (reviewed here). It is seen as the third in Heinlein’s ‘juvenile novels’ that were written for a teenage and predominantly (though not exclusively) male readership.

If I remember right, it was possibly my second or third Heinlein read, after Tunnel in the Sky, which I found, rather lost and forgotten, at the back of my school library. It was one of my early favourites.

After events in space and on the swampy planet Venus in Space Cadet, this one’s all about Mars.

Jim Marlowe is a teenage colonist at boarding school on Mars. Whilst there, Jim and his friend Frank Sutton, as well as Jim’s Martian pet, Willis the Bouncer have many adventures, often running up against the authoritarian head teacher, Mr. Howe and eventually, Mr. Beecher, the Earth’s administrational representative for the Mars company. Willis overhears the two discuss a devious plan to stop the traditional human migration to warmer climes during the harsh Martian winter, Jim and Frank run off from school and skate along the canals, back to their home colony to tell Jim’s father.

The result is a fight between the adults for the independence of Mars and a showdown between the original Martian inhabitants and the human colonists, the result of which seems to depend upon Jim and Willis.

In many ways the format of Red Planet is similar to Space Cadet, in that we have alien/human conflict and a hero figure in a rite of passage Bildungsroman, but instead of being in space and on Venus (as we were in Space Cadet) here we are firmly on frontier Mars.

What surprises me most on re-reading is how complex this book really is behind the obvious plot narrative. We have ancient Martian races, social revolution and rather manipulative humans on a Bonestellian style planet. Our hero is, as was rather traditional for these books, a teenage human male, whose growing up (see: rite-of-passage) was rather frontier-like. On the cutting edge of space colonisation, Jim Marlowe is a pioneer. It’s not by accident the original edition was subtitled on the cover, ‘A colonial boy on Mars’.

Owning a gun, or, as often referred to here, ‘a heater’, is a sign of maturity and adulthood in this frontier world. Heinlein points out in this novel the relationship between freedom and weapons, and the right to bear arms, as fundamentals of Martian society, with the American frontier (and Heinlein’s own personal beliefs) as a template. This nearly comes unstuck at one point when Jim seems rather determined to shoot his dictatorial headteacher, but is only stopped by being talked down (or rather, wrestled down) by his friend Frank.

What is more surprising on this reread is what Heinlein does here with the back-story of the Martian race, which in this edition is more complex than I remembered it. They are an old and complex race, who can do (when the situation requires it), near impossible things. What is more noticeable, reading this now as an adult, is the connection between Willis and the elder Martian race, more Ray Bradbury (Martian Chronicles) than Burroughs (John Carter). Of course, Heinlein’s adult Martians also reappear in a Stranger in a Strange Land, albeit only briefly (and how disappointed I was all those years ago when I found that out!)

Although Jim is a likeable enough sort of chap, I’m sure that, like many other readers, he is not what I remember most about this book. For me, Willis the bouncing Martian is still a memorable favourite.

Reading this again with older eyes, I was concerned that Willis’ broken-English speak would be rather irritating. However, it’s not as exasperating as I thought it might be, even though, Willis’s pidgin-English made me think a little of Jar-Jar Binks, though not enough to spoil my 40 year old memories completely.

Rather surprisingly, Willis still reads as an engagingly depicted character that would gladden the heart of any young reader, although he/she/it is basically a canine substitute (and is something that Heinlein will use again in later books such as Star Beast and The Rolling Stones/Space Family Stone, for example.) It’s not by coincidence that Tor Books once referred to the novel as ‘One Boy and his Martian.’ Supremely loyal and endearingly enthusiastic, these days I can see the similarities between Willis and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Woola more clearly.

Reading from William H. Patterson’s introduction to this Virginia edition (best done afterwards), it is interesting to discover that Heinlein had a bit of a tussle with publishers Scribners over this one and was forced to make changes to his original manuscript so that the finished book was more palatable to their target readership.

One addition to this edition that was edited out in my original copy was a discussion between Jim’s dad and his young sister, Phyllis, about the right for women to carry a gun. Because Jim is going away to school, Phyllis argues that she should be allowed to own a gun to look after her younger baby brother. This replaces a scene in my original version where Jim is berated by his father because he leaves his weapon out where his younger brother wanders. This was a scene added by Heinlein’s editors and one which he very reluctantly agreed to, whilst clearly very unhappy about it.

The ending was also changed, from one fairly open and ambiguous to one with an adult discussion of Willis’s future and the symbolic handing over from Jim of his pet to the next stage of him/her/it’s life with the Martians. This version is the 2009 edition, and uses the less open-ended conclusion, Heinlein’s preferred one.

Further changes are relatively minor. This includes returning all the dialogue about alien sex and biology, removed in my earlier edition, and similarly putting back ‘tougher’ language (though still no swearing) especially on the part of Doctor MacRae, an elder member of the colony and occasional mentor to Jim.

(Additional note, later: Many of these changes are mentioned in an article published in 2001 by the Heinlein Society, HERE)

Reading this again, I now see early versions of what will become Heinlein tropes. The strong-willed hero, determined to do what is right (and often against the corporate machine) is one, as represented by both Jim and his father who is that typical adult who does the right thing when forced to and here ends up leading the revolt against the corporation.

Another very noticeable difference between Red Planet and Space Cadet, reading the two fairly close together, is that we have here, more than before, the use of strong, opinionated female characters. Having talked before in my review of Space Cadet about how little females were represented in the book, here, through the character of Phyllis, Jim's younger sister, Heinlein readdresses that issue a little. She’s not a major character by any means, but it’s clear that the gender imbalance must have been on Heinlein’s mind too – Red Planet is dedicated to ‘Tish’, who is Heinlein’s niece. How much of this is an influence of the newly remarried Heinlein’s wife, herself by many accounts a strong, intelligent and opinionated lady, is unclear. However, the character type will reappear in Heinlein’s work for the rest of his writing career.

Of the adults, Jim’s dad is also an archetype, as already mentioned. Doctor MacRae, in this new revised version, is more like the grumpy, cantankerous oldsters of Heinlein’s less restrained later writing: Jubal Harshaw and so on. Although Heinlein’s novels have always had knowledgeable people passing on their perceived wisdoms, perhaps it is here that the templates for Heinlein’s future writing are evolved – or would have been, had the original manuscript been accepted.

This book shows a real leap forward in Heinlein’s character development and plotting, and the start of what I think of as typical RAH. It’s hard to believe that this was only his third published novel, although admittedly he was writing short stories with great regularity simultaneously. This is a less predictable, more complicated novel than Space Cadet, using even stranger ideas, yet still being extremely entertaining.

It’s also not the last time Heinlein looks at a planet/satellite determined to gain independence.

Gratifyingly, the simplistic and naive book I was rather expecting is, for the most part, much less unsophisticated and more entertaining than I had hoped. Whilst this is not the Martian environment as we know it today, it still has an attractive allure that makes the reader want to be there. It’s the Mars that I, and I suspect many others, would like it to be, a world of unlimited opportunities, with its Martians, vegetation and canals. If only.
Profile Image for Monica.
774 reviews
October 28, 2019
Ésta curiosa (porque, y por una vez es más juvenil de lo normal; sin serlo del todo) obra juvenil del Maestro Heinlein nos lleva al futuro, en dónde se está repoblando Marte mediante colonias comerciales. Los científicos encargados (padres de los futuros habitantes, que son designados a la academia privada de la compañía...algo así como el bachillerato) son los que acondicionan las diferentes zonas del planeta rojo, para que se vuelva habitable y respirable. Su atmósfera es extrema, debido al cambio de polos, lo cual hace que las colonias deban emigrar dos veces al año dentro del mismo astro.
El foco principal de la historia (y el desarrollo del conflicto social; todo muy Heinleiniano) se situa en Syrtis Menor, dónde está la compañía comercial marciana y las escuelas que proveen de educación media a los descendientes de colonos hasta que puedan ir a la universidad terrestre. Los protagonistas ‘involuntarios’ del conflicto son dos amigos, hijos de los científicos base: Jim (poseedor de un amiguito Marciano primario; Willis) y Frank, que al ingresar en la academia comercial se encuentran con un director taimado, enchufado y totalitario, la cual cosa desemboca, mediante el rapto de Willis por parte del susodicho, en una revelación muy peligrosa para todos los nuevos y venideros habitantes de Marte. Los chicos optan por llevar a cabo un plan para derrocar ése totalitarismo y manipulación, lo cual acaba en un lugar sitiado. Y es que no hay victoria sin revuelta.
Heinlein ya nos pone en antecedentes con una mini aventura de los chicos, previa a su ingreso en la academia comercial Marciana. Allí denotamos su obstinación y idealismo por el bien común; muy marca de la casa.
La ágil y equilibrada narración tiene tres partes invisibles en su desarrollo: el establecimiento de mundo base para el lector (en ésta ocasión con concesión pero precisión de detalle) y la aventura de los amigos, el episodio de la academia con huída incluida y el principio de rebelión que concluye en estado de sitio, con la posterior ‘recompensa’ social. El autor toca a nivel critico algunos de sus temas preferidos: el mal del absolutismo y la corrupción, la tiranía por la tiranía, el fascismo imperante de algunas corporaciones, que mediante el disfraz de ‘Samaritanos’ –avanzados sociales, acaban enseñando la ‘patita’ por hacer de las suyas, el racismo y xenofobia con la inevitable opresión a los nativos por parte de los verdaderos emigrantes (e incluso de los emigrantes mismo; el ABC del clasismo mas dogmático). Si bien la discursiva critica- social del autor está en su línea, quizá a diferencia de otras novelas suyas) no se impone a la acción, se solapa y deja fluir; no resulta tan notoria ni imperante. Empero, en su punto álgido tenemos la demoledora y astuta táctica del director Howe junto al jefe de la compañía para erradicar y obstaculizar la inmigración de los suyos.
Al ser ‘gata vieja’ en lo referente al maestro y haber leído casi todos sus títulos (y los más relevantes), distingo algunos elementos anticipativos de ‘La luna es una cruel amante’, ‘La bestia estelar’ y ‘ Granjero de las estrellas’ ; sin la relevancia que poseen en ésas posteriores obras del género. Es como si Robert A. Heinlein hubiese realizado un ensayo previo a todo lo que conforma sus juveniles posteriores (ojo, ‘la luna es una cruel amante’ no lo es); uno realmente dinámico y plausible, pero más ‘refinado’.
Sólo un grande como él podía ensayar y salir glorioso. Un título más que recomendable para los principiantes del decano de la Sci fi, que deseen degustar su dinámica y principios narrativos.
Profile Image for L. McCoy.
742 reviews1 follower
July 19, 2020
So as someone who’s been meaning to read some Heinlein I don’t know why this experience slightly underwhelmed me but I’m guessing it’s one of 3 things:
This book (at least I think) may be intended for younger readers, I haven’t been in the greatest mood and I didn’t know this was part of a series (I thought this was a standalone).
That being said like most books there are things I liked about things I disliked about the book.
I found the story fun in a family friendly sci-fi adventure way, I cared more about the characters as it went on, there’s some good comic relief thrown in and I liked some of the political commentary (something makes me think Heinlein was maybe a libertarian).
I did however think the pacing was a bit off (like sometimes it was very intense but then got arguably boring), the dialogue seems very dated now and there’s definitely some gender stereotyping in more than one scene (to be fair this was first published in 1949 but still).
So yeah didn’t love it as much as I had hoped but not bad. A fun little adventure.

Profile Image for Jeffrey Schmieder.
213 reviews6 followers
October 9, 2020
A Heinlein juvenile I never got around to reading. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it in elementary school or junior high. Two boyhood colonial Earthling chums are sent off to a boarding school located in the Martian capital along with a Martian pet. There they find out that the Earth company is trying to violate the deal they made with the colonists. The kids head back home across the forbidding terrain to tell their parents. Much of the story is about them interacting with the local Martian aliens. First two thirds are the best, the third part is not as climatic as I expected. Almost more like the author has to tie up the ending in too few pages.
Profile Image for Jacob.
879 reviews50 followers
February 3, 2017
A solid entry in Heinlein's novels, this is one of the ones about (and probably written more for) youth (like Podkayne of Mars, Tunnel in the Sky, and Rocket Ship Galileo). This one takes place entirely on Mars, and involves a rebellion between some of the human colonists there and the company that runs the place. There are native Martians, who are slow and mysterious, and a lot like the Ents in The Two Towers. Also, a weird Martian ball-animal that can somehow reproduce human voices perfectly and acts much like a voice recorder.

Other than the alien aspects, little here is new or unusual in terms of the plot. There's the power-mad schoolmaster, a race to alert the community in time, and some decent fights. But the aliens are actually pretty neat, the way they are handled, and the standard plot is done well.
Profile Image for Jim Mcclanahan.
314 reviews22 followers
August 25, 2010
All of you who have immersed themselves in the Kim Stanley Robinson Red Mars trilogy should invest a little time in reading this one. Robinson made supreme use of current scientific knowledge in putting together a real hard SF tale about our planetary neighbor.

Now picture someone in 1949 (Heinlein) trying to do the same thing with the limited knowledge available at the time. The story is a YA tale, with a pair of boys as the protagonists and a cute but mysterious Martian crittur, Willis, as the catalyst for most of their adventures. But I found myself wondering how serious Heinlein had been in trying to be true to the theories extant at the time. Obvious things are obvious. Canals are considered to be fact. but everything else is an extrapolation. And politics (Company vs. Colonists) is a prime plot factor. But then Robinson also extrapolated and delved deeply into politics. So what's different aside from 45 or so years in the writing??

Interesting and worthwhile if you are able to tolerate Robert A's militant and chauvinist views.

Profile Image for Christopher Wagoner.
Author 5 books6 followers
May 28, 2015
Don't take away my geek card, but this is the first Heinlein novel I've ever read (GASP!)
What surprised me is that this book would be marketed as YA in the modern era. The story centers around Jim, a teen of unspecified age who is a Mars colonist. His constant companion is a bouncing "martian roundhead" who can precisely record and repeat any sound.
There are plenty of scientific innaccuracies, which is to be expected since the novel was written fifty years ago. If you can get past that, it's an enjoyable if not great read.
The story changes in the last third, emphasizing Jim's father as he struggles against a wicked corporation. Republicans would probably love this novel, as it emphasizes gun ownership and a big middle finger to big government.
Teenagers with lazer guns. I'll let that sink in for a minute.
Still, despite its flaws this is a well written novel that should please Sci fi purists.
Profile Image for Jeff Yoak.
811 reviews43 followers
September 29, 2020
2014: Red Planet initially wasn't one of my favorites, but it has grown on me over the years. I just finished reading it with the kids, and I think it is their favorite thus far, perhaps after The Star Beast. I don't think even that novel resulted in as many instances of staying up late and demanding to sit in the car a little longer and listen as did this one.
Profile Image for Williwaw.
435 reviews20 followers
September 3, 2015
Although this is a so-called "juvenile" novel(i.e., "young adult" tale), it's quite well constructed. I was especially enchanted by Heinlein's depiction of the Martians. There's a clear connection between the Martians in "Red Planet" and the Martians described in Heinlein's later novel, "Stranger in a Strange Land."

What Heinlein lacks in style and descriptive powers, he makes up for with a tight plot, suspenseful action, and the mysterious, awe-inspiring Martians. "Red Planet" would make a great movie, but as far as I know, nobody has ever attempted it.
Profile Image for Joan.
2,030 reviews
June 16, 2017
This is one of the earlier Heinleins so perhaps the sexism wasn't so obvious back then. However, it is quite blatant. There is some racism as well. Although I remembered the story fondly, I found on rereading that it is far from being one of his better stories. About the only positive part was that the character of Willis is really well developed and cute. Not recommended. Trying to decide what to do with the book since it is a first edition but not in great shape. I might donate to County library branch I've been using.
Profile Image for Bill.
273 reviews
November 18, 2018
I listened to this as an audio book. I’m a life long SF aficionado, but I forgot how good Heinlein could be when he was in top form. He coaxes the reader into suspending disbelief on the first few pages and his imaginary Mars works in the same way Shakespeare’s Denmark does. This is a YA book, so so don’t look for deep meaning or character development. Heinlein does toy with his libertarian notions a bit, but not so as to offend my liberal sensibilities. The aliens are truly alien, and the humans are truly human.
Profile Image for Chris.
332 reviews
October 30, 2017
I still haven't read much by Heinlein and consistently hearing that he's the "master" or "father" of science fiction, I keep feeling like I need to seek him out more often. I happened to find a copy of Red Planet at our local used book store so I decided to give it a try.

The edition I read included an introduction that informed me that this was one of Heinlein's "juvenile" novels or "boy books." The introduction also included a description of the "censorship" that happened by way of severe editing of this book in its initial release (as well as commentary on the heavy editing of Heinlein's other books). The intro made it clear that the edition I was reading had been restored to Heinlein's original edition, reverting the edits that Heinlein had objected to. The intro alluded to a couple of the edits (such as removing/minimizing references to weapon use by the boys and information as to the biological nature of Willis, the Martian "pet" of our protagonist). It's interesting to think of these types of content as potentially controversial or threatening to readers of the 1940s and 1950s. I suppose part of the reaction was due to this being aimed at child readers but my 21st century sensibilities found no objection to the content called out by the intro. Still, I'm not sure what else may have been trimmed or modified so I can't wholly condemn either the editor or the author.

The story is a fairly simple one but with a couple of interesting twists to keep the adventure intriguing and to help propel the plot. The book takes place on Mars in the distant future. Mankind has begun colonizing Mars and is currently just a couple of generations into the process. They have numerous colonies on the planet and have a system of migration from north-to-south and back in order to try and stay in the more "temperate" zones of the Martian seasons. Colonists live under the rule of a combination of government and corporate oversight while also reporting to absentee leaders back on Earth.

This is a Mars populated with various forms of Martian life ranging from annoying insects and beasts up to higher life forms capable of scientific advancements that outpace the understanding of humanity. From a scientific standpoint, we have to suspend belief the same as we do with most sci-fi books before advanced space science. Things like the Martian atmosphere and the existence of water (mostly as ice) in the Martian canals have to be taken with a grain of salt.

The first bit of the book moves a little slowly and involves a fair amount of set up. Heinlein outlines the setting from a scientific standpoint telling us about the atmosphere, the temperature, the geology and other features of Mars. He lays out the nature of leadership and social organization of humanity on the planet. He gives detailed descriptions of how they build their buildings and their transportation.

Once the boys get to school, the plot begins to develop and the book moves from a sci-fi narrative about life and social relations to become a standard adventure story. Our main characters, Jim and Frank (along with Jim's "pet" Willis), are outraged at the rules and regulations of the new headmaster. The power struggle takes a turn for the worse and Jim sets out to regain his rights. In the middle of his own vendetta, he and Frank make a discovery that has implications for all of the colonists. Rather than trying to expose the truth at the school (which would have been a fruitless struggle) they set off across the Martian landscape for home. In a struggle for survival they make allies with the Martian people and begin to learn more about the Martians and about Willis.

The adventure progresses with Jim and the colonists in a fight for their survival and their rights. The conclusion of their struggle merges with more narrative about Martian culture. The Martian interactions with the humans takes a surprising turn and then results in a unique contract being formed between Martians, colonists and the people back on Earth. This also includes some strange revelations about Willis which are presented more as speculation than fact.

Overall I found the adventure portion of this book to be fun and the sci-fi world building to be interesting. The writing was very simple and easily accessible to young readers but could still be fun for an adult reader. Much of the political and social commentary would go over the heads of younger readers or would be something they would just gloss over. The concepts weren't especially revolutionary...mostly ideas of standing up for "common sense" rights of respect, survival and decency towards one another regardless of race or species. The characters and their roles were a little too simplified and stereotypical for my tastes. I would have preferred a little more complexity or intelligence in the "villains." The heroes were a little flat and short sighted as well. For any wondering about gender roles, the role of women is virtually non-existent as they are shoved in the background as the house tending mother or the trivialized younger sister...in other words, they felt like the simple female characters from 1950s TV series. The main morale/message of the story is to stand up for what's right and to be brave in hard times...not a bad message but a simple message simply presented.

I found this to be an alright read. Nothing terribly extraordinary or objectionable. I don't feel like I was missing out by not having read it but I don't feel like it was a waste of time. If a younger reader is looking for a fun and simple sci-fi adventure, it's worth picking up. At the same time, I feel like there are plenty of other books that would be a more fulfilling read and provide more lasting messages.

3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Al "Tank".
361 reviews54 followers
May 22, 2019
One of Heinlein's early juveniles. The main characters are teenagers living on Mars (as imagined by RAH long before we'd sent probes there). The atmosphere is thin. The days are cold and the nights are even colder. BUT there are native species of plants and animals, including an intelligent race that builds cities. The bad guys are humans. The good guys are most of the other humans, the "Martians", and Jim's pet, Willis (a white ball with eye-stalks, legs, a rudimentary intelligence, and a voice that can imitate anything). If you want to go outside, you need the proper clothing and a helmet that will keep your pressure up and your air both oxygen-sufficient and not bone dry.

Twice each Martian year, the colony migrates from one hemisphere to the other to avoid the REALLY COLD winters. Midway between these two living areas is a school where most of the bad stuff originates.

I first read this when I was a kid and enjoy rereading it as an ancient adult (maybe I never grew up?). It's a slow start, but things get tense soon enough and it becomes hard to set aside for unimportant things -- like a night's sleep.
Profile Image for Chan Fry.
236 reviews6 followers
December 2, 2020

I *think* this is the first Heinlein book I ever read, circa 1984, when I was 11 or 12 years old. Reading it again was enjoyable, but reading it on the heels of Space Cadet revealed several flaws in this book. Though the writing is still precise and concise, the author attempted to squeeze in too much — so everything is treated very quickly and often without explanation. Especially at the end, the action blurs past and leaves the reader reeling.

(I published a longer review on my website.)

Profile Image for Andy Plonka.
3,475 reviews13 followers
June 9, 2022
This is the kind of Science Fiction that I really like with characters that are fully fleshed out and a plot that makes sense. Plus Willis is great.
Profile Image for Craig Childs.
814 reviews10 followers
January 25, 2023
Jim Harlowe is a second-generation colonist on Mars. His parents are part of a terraforming team focused on producing a sustainable atmosphere for humans. Jim, along with his best friend Frank and a furry Martian roundhead named Willis, navigate bullies at school and the sometimes dangerous flora and fauna of the planet itself…

Jim's colony is funded and governed by a corrupt non-profit entity simply referred to as The Company. When Jim learns of their plans to prevent his settlement from migrating north during the harsh Mars winter, he must race home to warn his parents. The trio will skate the frozen canals of Mars while dodging police, deadly beasts known as water-seekers, and plants large enough to swallow men whole… But even if they survive, will any of the adults listen?

Robert Heinlein's third "juvenile" is one of his best. It is impossible to overstate the impact of these twelve books, not only on the science fiction genre but also in energizing the postwar generation about the possibilities of space travel. In addition to being a well-crafted action-adventure yarn, this 1949 book is notable for several elements:

Willis is a semi-intelligent, adorably fuzzy creature that sits somewhere between sentient being and trained pet. This is a useful trope. It allows the story to explore man's relationship to and responsibility for new life forms. Jim and his school headmaster clash over whether Willis should be treated as a piece of property or enslaved against its will. Willis' unique biology and relationship to the ecology of Mars plays a central role in shaping the events of the story.

The mysterious, ancient race of Martians will reappear in later Heinlein novels, notably A Stranger in a Strange Land. These creatures often go into catatonic trances during which they communicate telepathically on another plane of existence. They participate in odd water-sharing ceremonies. I would especially like to learn more about the "strange and distressing history of the first generation of contact with the Martians", an episode only briefly alluded to that apparently did not go well for the humans.

Portraying life on Mars in terms of a frontier settlement is a Heinlein idea that quickly became a trope of the sci-fi genre. It allows the author to set up a contrast between barbarism and civilization. Heinlein puts his faith in science and the ingenuity of the individual. He distrusts governments, religions, and large corporations: "Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft."

This book has a lot to say about people who abuse authority; it has even more to say about people who allow themselves to be abused without resistance. Jim and his friends always carry guns because Heinlein believes an armed citizenry is the foundation of a free healthy society. Interestingly, much of the gun material was excised in the original edition because the editor found the idea of kids with guns horrifying. (Indeed, Jim almost kills people on several occasions in fits of childish anger, so it is easy to understand the concerns.)

This book is sometimes quoted to illustrate Heinlein's mid-twentieth century misogyny: "Doc says [it] is the biggest joke since women were invented." "That's what comes of trusting women." "Any girl old enough to cook and tend babies is an adult, too." (Interesting to note that Heinlein considered himself a staunch feminist--at least by the standards of the 1940's.)

This edition restores Heinlein's preferred text, restoring the significant cuts imposed by his editor Alice Dalgleish.
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