I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mars Girls by Mary Turzillo
Published by Apex Book Company on June 13 2017
Genres: Young adult, Science fiction
The nitty-gritty: A high-octane adventure tale in space, populated by some of the craziest characters you’ll ever meet.
Well, this is probably the strangest, wackiest story I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something. Being a lover of speculative fiction, “strange” is the norm and I’ve definitely read my share. Mary Turzillo takes strange to a whole new level, but she deftly combines it with humor, teenage hijinks and adventure. Mars Girls is aimed at the young adult crowd, but this story will put a smile on your face no matter what your age.
The story centers around two girls from Mars who get caught up in a conspiracy that involves a highly dangerous scientific experiment. The chapters alternate between Kapera Smythe, a young girl who (until recently) lived on her parent’s Pharm, and Nanoannie Centime, a slightly older girl who wants nothing more than to find a boyfriend. When the story begins, Kapera and her parents are all set to take the Down Escalator to Earth, where Kapera will be treated for her leukemia. But hours before the Escalator’s departure, Kapera discovers that their Pharm has been raided and her parents are missing. With mere hours to go before she misses her chance to go to Earth, Kapera contacts her friend Nanoannie for help.
But all sorts of obstacles stand in the way of these two very determined girls. Kapera is kidnapped by a group of missionaries called Facers, whose diabolical plan to colonize a new world could have devastating effects. Nanoannie steals her parents’ marsplane to rescue Kapera, but she gets caught up in the Facer’s schemes as well. All Nanoannie wants to do is meet Kapera’s brother Sekou and help her friend find her parents, but those seem like impossible tasks.
Mars Girls switches back and forth between Kapera’s and Nanoannie’s POVs, with Kapera telling her story in journal form, writing letters to her brother Sekou. Early on Nanoannie sees an old photo of Sekou and promptly declares herself in love with him. One of her biggest motivations in the story is to meet and (possibly) marry Sekou, no matter that she’s never even met the guy. Even though the story centers on both girls, for me, Nanoannie really stole the show. Her personality practically jumps off the page. She’s resourceful, brave and stubborn, but she’s fiercely loyal to her friend Kapera. Most of her chapters were hysterically funny, and I especially loved her snappy dialogue. But Kapera is the smarter, more focused of the girls, so they actually complement each other very well.
I was delighted by all the hard science references in the story, which didn’t surprise me because Mary Turzillo is married to a scientist herself. At first glance, this is a lighter adventure story with a core mystery that focuses on the day-to-day thoughts and desires of teenage girls. But there is some serious stuff going on. Kapera’s mother has just about unraveled the mystery of a project she’s been working on for years, but she’s fully aware of the dangers of setting that experiment in motion before it’s fully tested. There are also many scenes that take place outside space stations and spacecraft, and the author does a great job of painting a picture of a harsh atmosphere that is very difficult to live in. All the characters wear protective suits and gear at all times, even when that gear gets in the way of the story. These touches put the “science” in the science fiction for me, and if you enjoy this kind of verisimilitude, you’ll enjoy them as well.
Turzillo has invented her own unique slang for her story, which I have to admit took some getting used to. Words like “babehood,” “viocrypt corpgeeks” and “tanks” (breasts) caught me off guard at first. But once I got into the rhythm of the language, I realized I couldn’t imagine Mars Girls written any other way. It’s definitely a style that grew on me.
The only thing I had trouble with at first was trying to translate the ages of Kapera and Nanoannie into “Earth years.” One of the girls is described as being “eight mears old,” and I’m assuming “mears” translates as “Mars years.” It didn’t take long to realize that a day is a different length on Mars, and it was a quick jump from there to a website that told me exactly how old a sixteen-year-old Earthling would be in Mars years—just over eight years, to be exact!
Turzillo reflects on several big ideas, like what race relations will be like in the future (not much different than they are now) and the clash between religious groups. In her world, we may have made progress by expanding into the galaxy and settling on other planets, but at heart we’re still human, and we’re still facing challenges on how to get along with each other. The best science fiction uses the future as framework to examine the human condition, and Mars Girls does a great job at upholding that tradition.
Add in some emotional moments and you have a well-rounded adventure story. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist these Mars girls, Nanoannie in particular. Strap on your seat belt, because this is one crazy story full of non-stop action that will have your head spinning by the end.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
Big thanks to Apex Books for inviting me to participate in the Mars Girls blog tour! Stop by tomorrow for my interview with Mary Turzillo and enter to win a copy of the book!