Books Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Close To My Heart

Many of us have made simple decisions which changed our lives. It could be as simple as turning right instead of left at an intersection or saying "Yes" rather than "No" to an invitiation. For many of us, that change happened after reading a book. Things weren't quite the same. We saw things differently, we found ourselves wondering different thoughts, we made decisions for different reasons. We were imbued with a sense of wonder. This series takes a look at the books that had such an impact.

[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other titles in the Close To My Heart series.

Red Planet
Robert A. Heinlein
Scribners (1949)
Robert A. Heinlein

Red Planet
Red Planet
Robert Anson Heinlein was born in 1907 in Butler, Missouri, moving shortly thereafter to Kansas City, Missouri. He grew up there and spent summers in Butler. He graduated from Central High School in Kansas City in 1924 and attended a year of college at Kansas City Community College. Heinlein entered the Naval Academy in 1925 and was commissioned in 1929, serving on a variety of ships. He studied advanced engineering and mathematics at UCLA as well as architecture. In April 1939, he wrote "Life-Line" in 4 days and sent it to John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction. In late 1948, he married Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, who remained his assistant and close companion until his death in 1988 due to a combination of emphysema and related health problems that had plagued him during the last years of his life.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Glory Road
SF Site Review: For Us, the Living
SF Site Review: The Door Into Summer
SF Site Review: Orphans of the Sky

A review by Rodger Turner

All Jim Marlowe wants is to leave for school. As a colonist on Mars, that can be a bit of trial. He has to travel to the other side of the planet via the ice canal schooners. He is packed, his Martian "bouncer" Willis is frolicking about and mimicking those conversations around him. His Mom is weepy, his dad is proud to see him off. Jim is glad to be getting a chance to further his studies while his family is planning their annual migration to another sector.

Red Planet Once there, he finds school isn't quite what he had hoped now that their new headmaster has changed the rules. It catapults out of control when Willis is taken away and locked up to determine whether he is a pet. The plan to free him goes awry when Willis decides to slice his way through walls to get to Jim and the "bouncer" parrots an overheard conversation between Headmaster Howe and Resident Agent General Beecher. It seems that the colony's annual migration is to be postponed indefinitely which could be deadly for the residents.

In his flight to escape and warn his parents, Jim finds that the Martians are more than just the local fauna. It seems their civilization and technology is more subtle and less flashy than that of humans. And Willis is more than just Jim's companion.

I was 10 years old when I read Red Planet for the first time. I was in my school library looking for something new to read. I had just finished one of Homer's books, probably for a book report, when I noticed some titles by this fellow Robert A. Heinlein right next to those classics which were a part of our studies in those days. I remember thinking that maybe this Heinlein stuff would be as good as Homer. Little did I know how much of an effect this would have on my life.

Now most of us can remember seminal events in our lives. Where we were when JFK was shot, the death of a family member, graduation from school, a marriage, the birth of child. They change us intellectually and maybe physically. They colour our thoughts, ideas and perceptions. Red Planet did that for me.

Red Planet Jim Marlowe seemed like my doppelganger. He was having battles with his sister. His parents didn't often listen to what he wanted to say. He regularly got into trouble not of his making. He had one good friend who would stand by him through thick and thin. He got picked on by others for no obvious reason other than he was nearby, minding his own business. It was exactly like my life except he was on Mars. And he could find solutions whereas I was bouncing about in a frantic search for some degree of control.

Maybe he had an answer or two that would help me. He did. I was able to parse out how some of his problems got solved and apply them to mine. My results weren't nearly as smooth as his but I noticed that things weren't nearly so bad. I was able to figure out how to exert a measure of control over how to interact with others, why others did what they did and determine when to stay out of events that I couldn't affect. I was feeling that growing up could be interesting.

In talking to others over the years since I began to read science fiction and fantasy, it was always a surprise to find out how many others had a similar experience. Theirs wasn't always a Heinlein book like Red Planet. Sometimes it was Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke or some other SF author popular at the time. Sometimes it was Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs or some other writer of fantasy that had a major effect of the way people saw the world and handled the events that surrounded them. They all have agreed that reading science fiction and fantasy has had some degree of influence on them and their formation into the adults they are today.

Copyright © 2005 Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."


SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to editor@sfsite.com.
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide