Thursday, November 27, 2008
Thanksgiving, and Friday's Forgotten Books
First let me wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and forgive me for not getting around for all my regular blog visits today. I didn’t get to check blogs Wednesday and when I called up my Google Reader list this morning the number of posts was just beyond any chance of catching up. So I used the “Mark all as Read” choice and spent the rest of the day eating turkey and napping.
My post for today/tomorrow is for Forgotten Book Fridays, which is the brainchild of Patti Abbott. My choice for today is The Secret of the Martian Moons by Donald A. Wollheim. It was publishd by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1955, and was part of a “juvenile” line, what today would be considered young adult. It’s an example of an SF subgenre that I’d call “Space Opera,” where the emphasis is on adventure.
“Martian Moons” was published before I was born, and I’m not quite sure at what age I read it. Probably I was no more than 12 or 13, and I found the book in the small Charleston, Arkansas library. At that time I wanted to be an astronaut myself and was especially enamored of Mars. This story didn’t let me down with its mixture of adventure and mystery.
The story begins with Nelson Parr, returning to Mars at age 16 after four years on earth. Nelson had been born on Mars, where his parents were scientists investigating the civilization left behind by an original Martian race. Unfortunately, the scientists had not had much luck in cracking the mystery of the aliens and Earth politicians were about to shut down the project because of costs.
But when everyone else leaves Mars to return to earth, Nelson, his father, and a few others stay behind on a “secret mission.” I won’t tell you what this mission is; it’s part of the fun of the book. But I will say that it involves a secret trip to Phobos, and later Deimos, which mean “fear” and “panic” by the way. And along the way there is one exciting revelation after another about the mystery of Mars’ original civilization.
This was all pretty heady stuff to the boy I was then, and in preparation for this post I reread the book and found it just as much fun, although not quite as surprising, as I had in those long gone days of youth. I even realized that elements from this book have worked their way unconsciously into concepts that I’ve developed for my own writing, including for the universe in which the Talera stories are set.
The Secret of the Martian Moons was a book that I remembered for years and years until, in my forties, I sought it out and bought my own copy. I remember the smile on my face when the package arrived and I took the book out and ran my fingers over the cover. And sitting here now writing this, I’m still smiling.