Polly Newton has a straightforward personal career goal: become a starship pilot, preferably as an intergalactic pilot and take advantage of the new MPolly Newton has a straightforward personal career goal: become a starship pilot, preferably as an intergalactic pilot and take advantage of the new M Class drives being developed. However, her immediate plans are interrupted when her mother, the Mars Colony One director, announces that Polly and her twin brother Charles have been enrolled at the prestigious Earth-based Galileo Academy. Polly, having been born and raised on Mars as the third generation, post-colonization, has never stepped foot off-planet so moving to Earth for three years is a dreadful prospect, even if it might help her chances of getting into a pilot training program.
This stand-alone novel reminds me a lot of the Robert Heinlein juveniles. That’s a good thing because I really enjoyed reading those books. It’s told from Polly’s first person POV as she struggles to adapt to her new environment on Earth. I’ve read a lot of science fiction about people living on Earth who have to adjust to life in space, other planets, asteroid mining colonies, etc. but this is the first time I’ve seen that concept spun on its head. (With the exception, I suppose, of Heinlein's own Stranger in a Strange Land). Not only must Polly struggle with things we take for granted, such as the relatively high gravity of Earth, the concept of “outdoors”, the vastness of the oceans, etc. but she must also cope with the prejudices of fellow students and teachers who regard Polly and Charles as outsiders and lesser people.
Polly herself is an interesting character. As a typical older teen, she has the usual sarcastic observations, a bit whiny, self-esteem challenges and so forth but she is also courageous, smart, funny, and it’s a joy to watch her learn how to adapt. Much of the novel is about how she makes this adjustment and builds a coterie of friends but there is also a mystery here… something is going at Galileo Academy, something that seems to be moving beyond the expected rigorous academic training and testing and seems to be getting more and more dangerous.
Billed as a stand-alone novel, the story is complete in this one volume but it practically screams for a sequel or three. I am hopeful Ms. Vaughn will consider writing more of Polly’s and Charles’ adventures....more
Despite the author's attempts to portray a realistic approach to a child struggling to endure while his parents pursue a divorce, he has failed miseraDespite the author's attempts to portray a realistic approach to a child struggling to endure while his parents pursue a divorce, he has failed miserably. His young protagonist tries to deal with his situation by having an active imagination. I applaud him for that. But the author of this book seems to feel that is the wrong approach. His bottom line seems to be that reading comic books is bad for you. They lead you down a path of sickness because, I guess, they aren't real...? He doesn't make any case for his viewpoint but is content to let the supporting characters simply say things like, "Uggh...you actually read that disgusting trash? No wonder you are always getting into trouble."
Not recommended for children or for parents (or teachers or youth ministers) to give to their children to read....more
I chose to read this YA historical novel because it was part of my kid’s school curriculum but I hadn’t realized it was the third novel in a 10-book sI chose to read this YA historical novel because it was part of my kid’s school curriculum but I hadn’t realized it was the third novel in a 10-book series. No matter; this read as a complete story in itself with a beginning, a middle, and an end and I was quite satisfied to read it as a stand-alone novel (although, it’s quality will likely result in my seeking out the other books in the series).
As I understand it, the series as a whole relates the lengthy tale of the Youngs family of Three Willows Village in China and their ongoing fascination with the Land of the Golden Mountain (America). This novel features a young man named Otter and his adventures from his home in China all the way to his hardship labor in California, drilling tunnels for the railroad. Most of the novel occurs in America in the year 1867 and in most respects, is a coming-of-age novel. It’s a great way for students to learn about the historical aspects of early Chinese immigrants, the incredible hardships of railroad construction, as well as the cultural pitfalls of trying to integrate with other, dissimilar cultures. It is certainly historically accurate but it also is a heart-warming story of a young person’s gradual growth into adulthood. ...more