Friday, August 13, 2010

Mars Here We Come

Welcome to Mars
The first James Blish juvenile I am going to post about is  Welcome To Mars.  Its also my favorite of the 4 he wrote that I have read.  It’s in the junior scientist mold, but almost Heinlein-like it its main character. 
Dolph Haertel is the classic lone genius, garage inventor that is one of the major myth archetypes (see Jung and Campbell) of America.  There have been plenty of them in real life and they were popular in both juvenile and adult SF
But, as far as I can see, this type of character has left SF.  Maybe it’s a more real depiction of how science and engineering work, but I always liked this kind of character. 
Dolph works out anti-gravity from a flaw in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and builds a spaceship disguised as a tree house. He then goes to Mars, but crash lands and is unable to return. 
His girlfriend, Nanette, figures this out and uses his first test rig to go after him.
They are on a Mars that is survivable, if barely, and the story becomes a survival story.  And there is intelligent life on Mars and adventures follow.
This is a classic example of the Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell.  This type of story is endemic throughout many cultures here on Earth.  There is something within us that makes this sort of story successful in its various forms. 
I think its one of the best juveniles out there and despite the dated picture of Mars its still a good read.
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