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Podkayne of Mars Mass Market Paperback – 1974

4.1 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, 1974
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Nel (1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0450020401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0450020407
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward E. Rom on January 20, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before I actually review this novel, I must clear up a commonly-held misconception: _Podkayne of Mars_ is not a juvenile novel! When I was at the Heinlein Centennial last summer, Dr. Robert James (a leading Heinlein scholar) read the backcover blurb from the first paperback edition, which made this very obvious: juvenile novels are not marketed with phrases such as "the Minx from Mars." Dr. James is evidently irritated with people continually referring to this as a juvenile...

The last unambiguously juvenile novel was _Have Spacesuit, Will Travel_. _Starship Troopers_ is supposedly a juvenile, but I really have my doubts. _Podkayne_ is a novel that comes early in the period in which Heinlein was finally writing more or less what he wanted, rather than writing for specific markets.

The entire book is composed of Podkayne's diary, with a couple of secret entries made by her younger brother Clark, in invisible ink. The reason for this is obvious once you have read the book: no spoilers here!

The story is about Podkayne and her younger brother Clark accompanying their Uncle Tom on a trip to Venus and then to Earth (the trip never gets past Venus). There's a lot more here than meets the eye, because Tom is actually on a secret diplomatic mission to the upcoming Three Planets conference, and Poddy and Clark are along just to provide cover.

At first everything seems to be perfectly innocent, but then a stranger gets Clark to smuggle a package on board the spaceliner. Clark is a lot smarter than the stranger gives him credit for; the kid figures out that he's been given an atomic bomb that's been set to go off shortly after they leave Mars. Clark, being a boy genius, finds a way to defuse it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was the last of the Heinlein `juveniles', the only one written with a female point-of-view character, and the only one not subject to the editorial dictates of a certain prudish editor at Scribners, though it still suffered at the hands of the editor at Putnam (more of which later).
Podkayne (named after a Martain saint, but just "Poddy" to her friends) and her younger amoral genius-level brother Clark get to take a trip to Earth with a side stop at Venus accompanied only by their retired Martian senator uncle Tom, as their parents are unexpectedly having to deal with three newly decanted babies due to a crèche mix-up. Most of the story is a detailing of the events during their journey on the spaceship and the sights, people, and society of Venus, as carefully recorded in Poddy's diary (with occasional inserts by Clark). This method of telling a story is difficult to do effectively, but for the most part it comes across very well in this book.
Poddy is a very likeable, friendly person who is, unfortunately, a little too naïve, a little too cute, a little too much preoccupied with babies, boys, and proving herself to be `just as good as a man' to be quite believable as a (supposedly) highly intelligent but otherwise normal teen-age girl. Clark, on the other hand, is all too believable as a boy with adult knowledge and a child's `me' centered view of the universe. Clark is the prime mover of the events, but for the most part he remains offstage, and we only learn about what he has done as filtered by Poddy's perceptions.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robert Heinlein never could get over the charge that he was a misogynist - because he espoused the "different but equal" theory of gender relations, rather than the "exactly the same as each other" interpretation. With this book, on the cusp between Heinlein's mainly juvenile stories and his much deeper adult fiction, we see one of the most obvious examples of Heinlein's "different but equal" characters in the titular Podkayne.

Obviously it's a stretch for a middle-aged man to write a 1st-person account as a 15-year-old (in Earth years!) girl. Podkayne's goal in life is to become an explorer pilot, even though it's a male-dominated profession, even though she will not be educated in the top schools, and even though she is of questionable anscestry (born on the former penal colony of Mars). She gets the chance to see first-hand what space travel is like when her uncle (a senator for the Martian Republic, and ex-transported convict) agrees to take her to Venus and then Earth. A 3-planet conference is taking place on the Moon that he will attend. Unknown to Podkayne at the time of departure: radical elements do not want the Senator to make it to the conference, and others want to use him to push their own agendas contrary to the Senator's beliefs.

If this sounds complex for a "juvenile novel," I think it is. The reason it's classified as such is that the main characters are young (Podkayne and her even younger brother), and the dialogue is relatively simple, even when the ideas are complex. In comparison to, say, Between Planets or Rocket Ship Galileo, the plot is much darker and more subtle.
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