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Martians Abroad

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A great new stand-alone science fiction novel from the author of the Kitty Norville series.

Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly's plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there's more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 17, 2017

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About the author

Carrie Vaughn

268 books4,346 followers
Carrie Vaughn is the author more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories. She's best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. In 2018, she won the Philip K. Dick Award for Bannerless, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery. She's published over 20 novels and 100 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop.

An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado, where she collects hobbies.

Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com

For writing advice and essays, check out her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/carrievaughn

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Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,706 followers
February 7, 2017
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

3.5 stars

In MARTIANS ABROAD's version of the future, Mars has four colonies, all set up as independent business ventures. Polly and Charles Newton are the (nominally) twin children of the equivalent of one of Mars' colonies' President and/or CEO.

Nominally b/c:

. . . we were uncorked at the same time and grew up together. But I’m really older because my embryo was frozen first. My unique collection of DNA has been in existence in the universe longer than his . . .
But as Charles always pointed out, we’ve been viable human beings for exactly the same amount of time. The seals on our placental canisters were popped at exactly the same moment, and we took our first breaths within seconds of each other. We watched the video twenty times to be sure. I didn’t even have the benefit of being five minutes older like a natural-born twin would. We were twins, exactly the same age. Charles was right. He was
always right.
I would never admit that out loud.

And that pretty much sums up Polly and Charles' relationship. At least superficially.

Our story begins when Polly and Charles are called their mother (The Supervisor Martha Newton, director of Colony One operations)'s office for a meeting.

Polly wonders what they've done to get in trouble (this time), and without spending too much more time in her presence, you begin to understand just how legitimate that line of thinking is.

Polly is what my grandfather would've termed a "firecracker."

A firecracker who plans to begin her internship at the astrodome, in the first of multiple check marks on her way to becoming a spacecraft pilot, in one week's time.

So Polly-the-firecracker comes close to detonation when her mother (a rather nasty and mercenary individual) informs her and her brother that they will be leaving on the next shuttle to Earth to attend the prestigious Galileo Academy:

“. . . a wonderful school, the best there is. Kids from all over the system go there, and you’ll get to learn and do so many things you’d never have a chance to if you stayed here.”

Polly is displeased.

Charles is . . . Charles. Which is to say, not prone to displays of emotion. Ever. To the point you become concerned that he's a sociopath and you somehow missed the memo about this book falling under the horror umbrella, b/c this kid is going to slaughter everyone.

SPOILER ALERT: it doesn't and neither does he. <------a JOKE, not a real spoiler.

Whatever. They're going.

When they get there, it becomes clear that everyone from Earth views everyone not-from-Earth as a second-class citizen.

They're weak b/c they're born and raised in low gravity. Their bones and muscles are less dense, their frames elongated. Simply walking is exhausting, and that's after a diet and exercise regimen meant to prepare their bodies for the grav change.

They're ignorant b/c their education is specific to the needs of their colony/space station, so they don't learn basic Earth history, b/c who cares about Manhattan-that-was on Mars?

And the Earth elite are pompous little peacocks content to embrace the stereotypes.


It's soon established that despite their lower bone density, despite their skinny scarecrow frames, despite their discomfort with wide open spaces, it's the raised-somewhere-not-Earth students who are made of sterner stuff than their arrogant, muscular Earthling counterparts.

And when Polly saves one of their own, the tide begins to turn . . .

That's all you get. If you want to know more, read the book. *winks*

MARTIANS ABROAD by Carrie Vaughn is relatively short standalone read, and its purpose is more philosophical than is usually found in longer works with an identifiable evil to conquer. It's goal is to make you question your own ethnocentrism and the accumulation of . . . things. But don't worry, it never gets preachy. I loved watching Polly and Charles evolve both as individuals and with the other Galileo students as a group, and I'd recommend it to anyone with a materialistic teenager who likes sci-fi lite.

Jessica Signature
February 20, 2017

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The Kitty Norville series got old, fast, but I still think Carrie Vaughn is a great writer. She's written some fantastic shorts that you can read for free on Tor.com and her non-Kitty Norville books, which are mostly standalones, are unique and daring and mostly enjoyable. You can imagine my excitement then when I found out that Vaughn had decided to break the mold yet again and publish what looked like young adult space opera.

Space. Opera.

Speaking as someone who was reared on a steady diet of Star Wars and Star Trek, there are no two words in the literary universe that will have me running in your direction faster. Well, okay, that's not entirely true: "free bodice-rippers" would also have me getting pretty speedy in your direction, but I'm not sure whether the hyphen counts as cheating or not.

MARTIANS ABROAD isn't about actual aliens, but a bunch of teenagers who were reared on a Martian Colony and are now being sent to Earth to attend a prestigious academy. Our narrator is a teenage girl named Polly Newton, who is going with her "twin" brother Charles, and a handful of other Martians. Polly makes a huge stink about going, and throughout the book her refrain can basically be summed up as "Earth sucks, Mars is better."

And she wonders why she's not making any friends...

The Galileo Academy is like elite boarding school meets military school. They're closely supervised at all times by the tyrannical Ms. Stanton, have pretty much no free time, and it's clear from the get-go that many of the students and faculty are biased against Colonists...for some unspecified reason. Polly, on the other hand, is small and thin because of Mars's lower gravity, and she has trouble getting accustomed to the weird Earth food, can't eat certain things because of her gut bacteria, and isn't quite acclimated to the heavy gravity, thus finding herself constantly out of breath.

I appreciated the thought that clearly went into what it would be like living on a planet other than the one you were born on (gut bacteria and gravity were nice touches), but the story itself was boring. Polly is an incredibly immature heroine who acts more like a preteen than a teenager, and apart from her flaunting the rules and getting into fights with everyone from her brother, to the parents of other students, to the principal herself, there's pretty much no action until the very end. As a reader, I really didn't think that ending was worth the payoff. It felt like a pretty big cop-out.

How was it a cop-out? Let me put it like this - when I was in elementary school, there was this book I used to really love in a popular series you probably read, too. It was about a camp where the other students were curiously hostile, the faculty were either aloof or overtly threatening for no apparent reason, and horrible things kept happening causing the other campers to just disappear. At the end of the book, the author M. Night Shyamalan'd the heck out of me: it turns out that the camp was just a "test" to see if the kid, who is actually an alien, is ready to journey to planet Earth.

The twist in this book wasn't nearly as exciting.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

1.5 to 2 stars
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
576 reviews214 followers
February 9, 2017
I received an eARC of this novel from the publisher though NetGalley.

I love Carrie Vaughn’s books, and I jumped at the opportunity to read this book early. As with her Kitty Norville stories, Vaughn gives us a first-person narrative with a very comfortable and conversational tone. You can’t help but love her protagonists, in this case a teenage Martian girl named Polly Newton.

Polly learns that she’s been chosen to attend the Galileo Academy on Earth, and she’s not too happy about it. She’s perfectly content at her home of Colony One, on Mars. She’s going with her twin brother Charles, and that only makes it worse because he’s so agreeable to the proposition.
This really felt like a YA take on The Expanse, that great series by Vaughn’s friend(s) James S.A. Corey. It doesn’t have the gritty feel of that other universe, but it does seem to have a similar society and political structure. That’s certainly not a complaint, but I do wonder if there was any influence here.

My only real criticism of the book is that it ended rather abruptly. Not cliffhangery abrupt, as it had a satisfying ending, but I do feel it could have been fleshed out a little more and maybe expanded by 50 pages or so without losing anything. I did get the feeling that we’ll be seeing a series here eventually, and if so I’ll definitely be checking in on Polly Newton again.
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,044 followers
February 7, 2017
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

The latest novel from best-selling author Carrie Vaughn, writer of the Kitty Norville urban fantasy series, Martians Abroad is a space opera for the Young Adult genre. Told in first person, this tale of Polly Newton, our narrator, and her twin brother Charles is filled with optimistic hope, adolescent travails, and scientific fun.

Set in a future where humanity has colonized the solar system, Polly and Charles are Martians, having happily lived out their short life on this colonial world ,where their mother is the director of operations. But while Polly is perfectly happy with her plans to be a starpilot and Charles with studying colony administration, the twins’ mother decides to enroll them in the prestigious Galileo Academy on Earth. The twins the first Martians to be accepted at Galileo, which means this should be a great honor, but, of course, it really isn’t viewed that way by either of them.

Polly’s dislike of her new school and home quickly turns into pure disgust and anger after she and her better-than-thou classmates begin to have problems. The usual juvenile peer disputes turn into something even more sinister however, as a mysterious conspiracy rears its ugly head, placing Polly right in the middle of the dangerous action.

Obviously, the focus of this story is the coming-of-age of Polly Newton. This youth having to accept responsibility for her life and attempt to emulate the capable, confident women she looks up to. But while Polly tends to triumph in her numerous trials, she always remains a realistic character. She has strengths, weaknesses, and does need direction and support from those around her. Nor does our young hero wallow in teen angst or dreary dystopian misery. Nope, she attempts to be optimistic and strong without ever slipping into the Mary Sue mold — unlike so many other Young Adult heroes.

But this is a space opera, right? So how can it have a space feel if it is set on Earth?

Actually, despite most of the story taking place on old Mother Earth, it keeps its decidedly science fiction feel by deft writing from Carrie Vaughn. Constantly, the author finds ways to integrate Mars and the Martian way of life into the narrative mix. The science fiction aspects of living on another planet always turn up in plausible ways. Physical differences between Polly and Charles and their fellow students are acknowledged and explained. The Martian colonial spirit highlighted and celebrated. Technological aspects of humanity in space are intelligently explored, creating a realistic political and societal setting for the tale. All of these elements (and more!) merging to create a satisfying space opera setting for the YA fun.

The only criticism I have with Martians Abroad is the ending. As so many other reviewers have also stated, it ends rather suddenly and unsatisfactorily, leaving one to wonder where the rest of the story can be found. Perhaps this issue can be chalked up to me just wishing to know even more than I did about the story and the characters, but I felt I should, at least, state that the ending left me a bit disappointed.

Space opera for the Young Adult crowd, Martians Abroad is futuristic, optimistic, and refreshingly fun. This tale sure to evoke an innocent sense of wonder in every person who reads it and remind them of a more hopeful time in the world when we all spent our days dreaming of the stars.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,263 reviews223 followers
February 7, 2017
This book had me torn. Outsiders in a school for elites, experiencing the familiar with new eyes, and great relationships between friends and siblings make for a fun book, but a lot of the plot makes no sense at all and if taken at face value, is deeply stupid.

Polly and Charles are twins, second generation Martians, who are the children of their colony's administrator. She's controlling and authoritarian and sends her children to the prestigious Galileo Academy on Earth with very little notice and without consulting them. Once there, they find a cliquey rich kid's school that's incredibly regimented and where the majority of students and teachers seem prejudiced against off-worlders. Polly in particular, doesn't fit in and doesn't really want to either and she runs afoul of the school authorities quickly. But her true colors get a chance to shine when freak occurrences put her school mates in peril during school trips.

There's so much about the book I don't buy. Polly is impulsive and a bit of a free spirit, but in places acts more like a 10-year old than a teenager, even a rebellious one. There's little background as to why the teachers at the academy have such a prejudice against the off-worlder kids (with only the astrophysics teacher being exempt), but they clearly do. The school is supposed to be about networking for the future, but there's almost no social side to this school at all. The kids are regimented to the point that they only get an hour free a day, and that is expected to be spent studying. It's difficult to imagine how discipline is kept in such a place - how do you take away privileges from students that have none? How do teachers inspire respect when they clearly see their charges as inmates? Even when Polly is disciplined, the discipline is so slight that she doesn't really care.

The school makes no sense. Most elite schools are generational affairs, where today's kids are tomorrow's parents. Authoritarian beginnings of teacher-student usually head towards the collegial as the relationships involve. It's important for the school to have a good relationship with it's students or the kids of the next generation aren't going to be sent there. There is none of that here. The teachers are ogres. Authoritarian to the point of prison guards and reasonable requests are met more with hostility let alone understanding.

And finally on the subject of the school

I actually think the author may have realized how dumb that all was too, and that may have been why the ending was so abrupt. I think she, like me, just wanted to be done with it by the end.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,029 followers
March 15, 2018
Very similar to Podkayne of Mars & I consider it a homage to Podkayne since it was so transparent. Polly & Charles instead of Podkayne & Clarke with very similar personalities. Even the ending was very similar. I was wondering if she'd do Heinlein's original ending or the published one. I won't spoil it for you by saying which she did, though.

There was a large splash of There Is No Darkness, the off world kid trying so hard to fit in & not even realizing when she did. I liked it. It was a nice, upbeat story that I treasure the Heinlein juveniles for. Plenty of action, but nothing over the top until the end. Smart kids trying hard, dealing with normal crap in the future with space ships & such. Great stuff. I hope she doesn't ruin it by turning it into a series. If she does, I doubt I'll read any of the sequels.
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,001 reviews369 followers
February 6, 2017
3.5 Stars

I'm not a huge sci-fi fan so I went into this somewhat leery for what I was in for and with very little expectations one way or the other, which was probably a good thing honestly. Sometimes going into the unknown isn't a bad thing and with a genre that isn't a favorite, it can even be a good thing.

While I did enjoy the otherworld aspect and details of what life on Mars and on space stations would be like, the plot did tend to be very slow moving for the first half of the book and never really picked up even when things did start to happen with the plot line.

And while I could see some of the old cliches with the “new kids” going to a new school and the cliques that are sometimes associated with high school, for the most part, this wasn't anything unique other than where the “new kids” were from but it was very believable with the prejudices that still occur today with those that are labeled as different or other.

All in all this was an entertaining read even with the very slow pacing and ones that are fans of YA and coming of age stories with a twist of sci fi will enjoy.

*ARC copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,336 reviews1,017 followers
February 26, 2017
3.5 stars

Polly and her twin brother Charles were born and raised on Mars, they don't really feel much of a connection to the place their ancestors originated so they're horrified when their mother announces that they're being sent to Earth to finish their education. Earth is a culture shock in so many ways, not only does the different gravity make even walking a much more difficult task than they're used to but they're also thrown in at the deep end thanks to gaps in their education and their totally different life experiences. It quickly becomes clear that the earthborn kids view off worlders as second class citizens so they're going to have their work cut out if they want to be accepted.

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn wasn't quite what I expected but that's definitely not in a bad way because it was a thought provoking and enjoyable story. I thought she did a fantastic job of highlighting the how strange it would be for children raised on an inhospitable planet like Mars when they visited earth for the first time. From the way the increased gravity made it so difficult for them to carry out day to day tasks to the panic Polly felt the first time she stepped outside and suddenly realised she wasn't wearing an oxygen mask - something that would have killed her back home! There were just so many clever little ways that Polly and Charles were effected by their new surroundings and that made the story feel completely realistic and believable.

I hated the way the earth students treated those who had come from other planets but unfortunately that was incredibly easy to believe too. We've seen time and time again how humanity treats anyone they perceive as different and as horrible as that is it doesn't seem to be getting any better thanks to politicians who love to preach hate and intolerance. What I really loved was the way Polly and Charles handled their situation. Polly is the kind of girl who acts first and thinks things through later, she's impulsive and it often gets her in trouble but she's also a quick thinker and great to have by your side in an emergency. Charles is quieter and tends to plan ahead so he's usually the one trying to stop Polly doing anything too crazy and keep her out of trouble. What was interesting was the way the earth kids were so privileged and spoiled but had very little in the way of common sense, it was the off worlders who were better at problem solving because they'd had to learn things the hard way in life or death situations that the earth kids had never faced.

I don't want to go into detail about the plot but there was much more going on at their school than first meets the eye and I enjoyed seeing Polly and Charles work together to figure things out. Martians Abroad was the kind of book that you can easily devour in one sitting and I really enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on. As far as I know the story is a standalone but if Carrie Vaughn decides to revisit these characters I'll definitely be picking up any sequels.

Source: Received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
April 17, 2017
I had pretty high hopes for this, since I enjoy Carrie Vaughn’s work. And it’s not a bad book; it just never took off for me. The set-up, the conflict, the conclusion — all of it felt a little flat to me. I didn’t quite believe in it, I definitely didn’t believe in the stakes, and I don’t think I really believed in the characters either. On the face of it, I should really enjoy Polly’s character: her presence of mind, her refusal to think inside the box, her quickness to act and her willingness to protect others. I don’t even really know why I didn’t. I suppose because I didn’t feel her emotions coming through. She was dumped by her boyfriend and my reaction was ‘oh, well’ — partly because of her reaction, though admittedly also because that relationship isn’t built up at all.

If the phrase “dumped by her boyfriend” makes you feel like this might be a little juvenile, you’re right there, too. It feels like a YA novel, not just because of the age of the characters but because of the relatively low stakes. I mean, the stakes are allegedly life and death, and yet it always felt like a game. You got the sense that things would be okay. I almost hoped they wouldn’t be, at one particular point near the end, because that would’ve surprised me.

Bit of a miss for me, alas.

Originally reviewed on my blog.
Profile Image for Marta Cox.
2,571 reviews191 followers
December 8, 2016
I've previously enjoyed this authors work so was quite keen to see what she could bring to something a little more futuristic. Now obviously the main characters are teens so I was prepared for a story that would be suitable for younger readers as well as adults . What I got was a book that had me questioning all sorts of things that I had never expected to.
Yes Polly and her brother Charles have been born on the planet Mars so are technically Martians but please don't expect little green men! This book takes the idea of colonists in space and then adds a little twist. Sent somewhat reluctantly back to Earth Polly and Charles struggle to fit in with their new environment not to mention fellow students. It brought to question just how prejudiced even a so called advanced civilisation could be. Polly feels like an outsider and indeed the off worlders are clearly targeted but the high spot for this reader was seeing how Polly slowly won over some of those born on Earth as she used both her brains and her ingenuity.
I won't ruin the story for others but will say this book had me wondering just how different life would be living in space and the author does a fabulous job of describing possible differences which include things as diverse as conservation and the effects of gravity. Yet it's a human story with petty differences raising their ugly head, unfortunately showcasing a prejudice that can be dangerous.
Polly stands out quite rightly and yet her brother Charles who is integral to this story was a much more remote character. I wanted to know more about him as he's something of an enigma which was a shame. I adored Pollys lust for life and ambition and truly she's a character that I'd like to know more about.
What I didn't like were the underhand tactics; the plot waivered occasionally as various characters became targets leaving me questioning whether or not the author was making a statement about greed and political machinations. My final thoughts are I enjoyed the set up ( although teens sent to new schools isn't exactly a fresh idea ), I really enjoyed the sci fi elements but the tragedy was that it felt like a bleak outlook if society would still target those who are different.
This voluntary take is of an advance reader copy
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews545 followers
February 9, 2017
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A fun, yet complicated take on earth when a Martian is put through trials to make it in an earthling school. You gain a whole new appreciation of earth especially when seen through a Martians eyes.

Opening Sentence: There are a thousand shades of brown.

The Review:

Martians Abroad is a standalone tale from Carrie Vaughn that made me really appreciate earth and the beauty that we have here. This novel is set a couple hundred years in the future. The main character didn’t care much for earth, or at least wasn’t impressed by it, but in her words it made me appreciate it more, especially if you are a horse lover. She loved the rusty browns of Mars over the colors of earth, I would think that if I had grown up on Mars I would be so impressed with earth.

Polly is a Martin. She and her twin brother Charles grew up on Mars. Polly thinks that she has her whole life planned out. She plans to go to an academy on Mars and become a pilot, simple as that, but her mother has a whole different plan. Polly and Charles are going to earth to go to school at the prestigious Galileo Academy. Polly is not happy that she has no choice but to go, the school takes three years before she can hope to get into a piloting program. Plus, Polly doesn’t want to leave Mars at all.

Polly is disappointed that Charles didn’t put up much of a fight. On the way to earth, Polly is determined to see what the cockpit on the ship really looks like, to see how pilot’s truly act and work. Once on earth, Polly reluctantly makes friends with the other offworlders because they have been lumped together, the locals don’t like the “aliens” much. Polly and all the others in her freshman class are put through trials. Charles puts it all together because the school wouldn’t truly put the kids in harmful situations. Polly just believes they are accidents or coincidences until it keeps happening.

Polly is a strange one but not as strange as her brother. She likes to do her own thing whether or not it will get her in trouble. She sees it as an adventure while others might see it as rebelling or troublemaking. But when it comes to true selflessness, Polly has that in spades. When someone is in trouble she has no problem jumping into the action even if that means she could possibly be hurt. I think my only complaint was the fact that Polly wanted to be a pilot but she didn’t want to leave Mars, and while she’s gone all she can think of is Mars. She dreams of flying to all these places but all she really wants to do is be at home on Mars.

I really enjoy Carrie Vaughn’s writing style. It’s really simple in a way that immerses me directly into the story and feeling the emotions that the MC is going through. I think this is a fun book for all young adult ages and more because it had me appreciating earth and all that we have because it could also be gone in an instant. Also, the lesson of helping someone as “the right thing to do” and not because you gain anything from it.

Notable Scene:

In the clear light of morning, I’d started to wish I’d had even more of a reaction. I wished I’d had my punch glass in hand, so I could have poured it all over him. Or I could have just, you know, punched him. “So he just wanted me to look bad and him look . . . what? Clever? Is it just because we’re from Mars?” I sighed and squished my food with the fork. If Tenzig showed up anytime soon, I might just throw the whole tray at him.

“The question is, what are you going to do about it?” Charles said.

I wanted to strangle Tenzig. Grab his head and dunk it in the punch bowl until he drowned. Drop him off the top of the building. Then I remembered . . . don’t let on when you think you’ve lost. Move on.

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m not going to do anything.”

FTC Advisory: Tor/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Martians Abroad. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Dee.
486 reviews5 followers
January 23, 2017
I would say a really solid 4 - though the ending felt rather abbreviated.

Charles is my co-hero. Polly was, I don't really know how to explain it, but, while interesting, and eminently readable, somehow smartly clueless and a borderline Mary-Sue (I liked reading her, I would read her more, but without Charles it would've been pointless). Of course, this was a YA, and as such inherently requires a certain element along this line and definitely should not be discounted on any such grounds. The descriptions of alienation felt by Polly on Earth, looking at our world from her more agoraphobic upbringing were excellent; micro-gravitic bone density is well documented so the extrapolations were fair and I felt the socio-cultural aspects all fit very comfortably and naturally. As I stated at the beginning - Charles is my favourite character. His unsocial attitude, quirky way of showing affection to his sister , his intelligence - he reminds me of me! But seriously, he propels much of the plotline and without him some other device/s would have been needed that fit less seamlessly. I would be greatly interested in his future life adventures. . .
Back when they first came out I read a few of Carrie Vaughn early Kitty books which I'll admit I do not recall being such smooth reads; and a dragon book? (I'll check the title*) which I think I found much better. But if this is an indication of the authors progress as a writer then I guess I'd better add Kitty Norville to my list of Paranormal series' I need to revisit this year. The TBR black hole will soon consume the world!

ETA *Voices of Dragons

Profile Image for Tracy.
630 reviews21 followers
March 7, 2021
Three and a half stars. I really liked this. It felt a little like an homage to Podkayne of Mars, except a lot better, there were adventures throughout the novel, field trips gone wrong, competition with other students and growing friendships. Also there were shades of The Expanse in it, although this was clearly YA. I found Polly and her brother to be intelligent and resourceful, although Polly was so self-conscious it was at times irritating. I liked that although Polly and Podkayne are about the same age, Polly never feels it necessary to hide her intelligence, she doesn’t go on about her own looks (we know she is tall and thin with brown hair,but that is about it). Polly and Podkayne both want to be pilots, but while Polly has a real shot at it, Podkayne ends up mostly dead and has already concluded that she probably wouldn’t get hired because she is female. Grrrr. The politics were interesting in this book, and I really liked how Polly and Clark, despite arguing often, really did have each other’s backs. Their mother however is a whole other story. We don’t see her much but by the end she seems monstrous. Also if I were a wealthy parent on earth I would think twice about sending my child to an academy (even an elite one like Galileo) where it is so easy to bribe the school leader to put said child in danger.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,953 reviews272 followers
February 23, 2017
Polly 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.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,432 reviews543 followers
March 30, 2018
Polly and her twin brother Charles are 17 year old third generation Martians. They've lived in Mars Colony 1 all their lives and have already found internships and future careers for themselves there. So Polly is heartbroken when their mother sends them to the prestigious boarding school Galileo Academy...on Earth. And when she gets there, she realizes just how much more she has to worry about than she ever expected. Getting accustomed to open spaces, bugs, and gravity is difficult enough, but there's so much about Earth's sociopolitical culture that she keeps getting tripped up by.

I had a couple questions or problems with the plot. But Polly's culture shock is so well written, and she and her brother's personalities so well drawn and so engaging, that I didn't even think about any of that while I was reading. I would dearly love to read a whole series of brave Polly and calculating Charles slowly taking over the universe.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,634 reviews329 followers
July 30, 2017
This starts out as a tribute to the Heinlein juvenile “Podkayne of Mars,” brought up-to-date, and is a fast-paced comfort read that turns darker, and ends with a cliff-hanger.

This is marketed as a YA coming-of-age story for an aspiring space pilot, and is written by a still-pretty-young woman, so likely draws on her own youth. I liked her writing style, and I liked Polly, who’s 17. Her “twin” brother Charles is pretty creepy. So is their Mom. The teen-angst stuff is well done, as are the cliques and mind-games at the elite Galileo Academy, and the background politics and economy of a future Earth and its offworld colonies. I enjoyed the book, and I’m well past the YA target audience.

The novel is billed as a stand-alone, but it just stops at the end. Author Vaughn doesn’t seem to have any definite plans for a sequel.

Cautiously recommended for all ages. Just watch out for whiplash at the end! 3.5 stars. I really like the cover art, by Paul Youll.

Here’s a good review by my old rasfw pal James Nicoll:
Profile Image for Hobart.
2,311 reviews58 followers
January 24, 2017
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 (rounded up)
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
I remember while growing up back in the 20th century that SF was fun. Maybe fun isn't the right word, but stick with me -- sure, the stories were serious, there were real stakes (usually), not every ending was happy, and so on -- but there was an overall sense that the future would be okay, that space travel and aliens (at least the ones not trying to kill us/take over the world) were positives, and that there as something in humanity that made it all worthwhile. But more and more that went away, and the future became (when not downright dystopian) a grim place with people struggling to survive. By and large, who wants to live in the future depicted in SF now? Sure, there are exceptions, but most of those are in the Douglas Adams' tradition (Scalzi and Clines would be good exceptions to this) -- "light" or humorous SF. I'm not saying that I want an end to those stories, or that I don't enjoy the darker SF. But I wouldn't mind more SF that makes me feel okay about the future, rather than wanting to return to the carefree days of the end of the Hoover administration instead of getting to 2040 and beyond.

Enter Carrie Vaughn and Martians Abroad -- an update of Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars (not unlike Scalzi's take on Little Fuzzy in Fuzzy Nation). Now, I've not read Podkayne, but I assume that it could use a little update and some tweaking. Not necessarily to improve it, but to make it "fit" the readers of today. Like a good cover song, such an update can revitalize an older work, showing different aspects of it, without having to replace it (see Parton and Houston's "I Will Always Love You"). Since I didn't read the original, I have no real idea how much of the plot of this book came from Heinlein and how much is straight from Vaughn herself -- and I really don't care outside of some vague curiosity. What I do know, is that Vaughn took some classic ideas and did something that only she could do with them. She gives us a vision of the future that's not perfect, but seems like an okay place to be. This doesn't make it better (or worse) than other SF works -- just a refreshing change of pace.

From Lowood Institution to Trinity High School to Welton Academy to Hogwarts (and many others), there's something about boarding school stories that just works. You get a little bit of a fish out of water story, usually an oppressive administration, some unofficial traditions shaping actions (frequently at least brushing up on bullying), and a heckuva story ensues. Sure, as a kid (and even now) I always wondered why anyone would attend/send their kids to one, but apparently it's a thing. Add the Galileo Academy to the list -- it's a school for the children of Earth's elites, as well as those of a few select space stations and colonies. Charles and Polly Newton are the first students from Mars to matriculate there -- by "from Mars" I mean that they're from the human colony on Mars, not some sort of fully alien life.

But really, in so many ways, they might as well be wholly alien -- ditto for the students form various space stations or the Moon, etc. Due to differences in gravity, having to breathe pumped-in air, etc., their muscle structure bone density -- and even digestive systems -- have adapted to their environments to the extent that it's easy to tell an offworlder by sight. How serious are these changes? Let's put it this way -- the non-Earth born kids can't eat bacon. I know, I said this wasn't a grim or dystopian view of the future, but that one fact makes me rethink that whole idea.

Now, the last thing Polly wants to do is come to Earth -- she has a plan for her future, and this isn't anywhere near it. It fits right in with her mother's plans (Polly just doesn't know how), Charles convinces his sister to go along with his mother's plan without much fuss -- it's not like they could stop things, anyway. The trip from Mars to Earth isn't as bad as she expects and she begins to have a little bit of hope - only to have that crushed as soon as she starts to meet students and administrators from the Academy. Basically offworlders are seen as lower-class/working-class, not as sophisticated or healthy as those born and raised on Earth. Polly, Charles and the other offworlders find themselves grouping together, and the target of harassment of varying degrees of seriousness and intensity from the rest. It's tough to tell how much of this is in their minds and how much this is real -- at times it feels like Polly's exaggerating how bad things are, but typically, her perceptions are substantiated.

Before long, some accidents or other dangerous situations start occurring that put Polly and her classmates in jeopardy --and it's not long before the students begin to wonder if there's something other than chance at work here. While Polly seeks to integrate herself better into her new community -- and she makes some pretty good strides at it (and some stumbles) -- she, Charles and her friends try to figure out just who is targeting their class and why.

Polly is a great character -- strong-willed, fallible, smart, impulsive, brave, socially awkward -- very real. Incidentally, you may have noticed that we share a last name -- I'm claiming Polly Newton as my great-great-ellipses-great-granddaughter right now, and welcome her to the family. The rest of her classmates are just as well-drawn. I could've used a little more on the adult front -- the teachers and administrators are largely absent, and are vaguely drawn. I do think that's a function of Vaughn's focus being on the students, not necessarily a flaw with the book -- I just would've liked a bit more of adult presence.

There is some real honest humor here -- some of it comes from the situations, some of it is from Polly's snark. But better than her attitude is the sheer awe she feels at Earth -- the colors, the life, the non-greenhouse plants, the sky, the air. Her initial impressions of Earth were great -- and they only got better from there -- each time she left the confines of school, she discovered something new about this planet and the way it was described was better than the last. Polly's a human, but from her perspective she's an alien to this planet, she's seeing it with fresh eyes.

There are some villains (of a sort), some real opponents to be faced, but really, there's no one evil. There's some misguided people, some . . . unthinking/wrong-thinking characters. But there's no Voldemort figure, no true evil. Just conflicting agendas, different priorities, unrepentant snobbery -- it feels real. Again, a refreshing change of pace.

Yes, this book is about teenagers, but it's not a YA book. It is, like the SF I talked about at the beginning, YA-friendly, though. A book that I can recommend to friends as well as my kids and their friends -- and, of course, you, whoever you are. The book was exciting, entertaining, filled with real situations in an appealing future. Vaughn's to be thanked for such a pleasant change of pace, a breath of fresh air -- and I hope we get to revisit this world (but if we don't, that's okay, this is a complete story as is).

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Tor Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this. Also, thanks to Tor for the opportunity to take part in the Book Tour.
Profile Image for Linzi Day.
Author 4 books47 followers
February 6, 2017
If I wrote the review I would like to write I think it would be so negative as to seem biased but i deeply regret the 8 hours of my life that I spent listening to the audio (which I bought myself). The audio narration is very good actually and probably what stopped me simply giving up on it.

This is is not a young adult book - it's a kids book and not a good one. There is no depth, no 3D characters, it's not sci-fi its just set vaguely in the future and I really wouldn't have cared if they had all died in one of the set pieces of the book. Mostly i hated it because nothing happened, the first 80% of the book was just delayed scene-setting. it really needed editing for pace. And finally the 'twist' was the biggest damp squib - worse than I even thought it was going to be!

The positives I can offer you include: If you like the sound of this book read Miles Vorkosigan instead. The Warriors Apprentice is also a book about coming of age with physical difficulties in your world however it has an awesome plot, characters you remember for years afterwards and complex world-building that is just so memorable. Oh and humour, there was absolutely none in this book. In fact given how easily it would have lent itself a little light relief - i was amazing that there was just NONE!

I find it hard to believe that this is same author who's Kitty books have given me so much pleasure.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,102 reviews109 followers
April 21, 2017
Robert A. Heinlein gets mentioned twice in the back-cover blurbs for Carrie Vaughn's Martians Abroad. This is no coincidence. For anyone with fond memories of "Heinlein juveniles"—the series of novels he wrote in the late 1940s and 1950s specifically for younger readers, before "YA" was even named, much less abbreviated, much less the marketing-category behemoth it has become—Martians Abroad will be very familiar. Too familiar, perhaps... especially in its early chapters, this book seems more like the output of a RAH fiction synthesizer than an independent work—a mashup of Red Planet v. Time for the Stars v. especially Podkayne of Mars (which, it should be noted, Heinlein did not consider a "juvenile" at all).

But early Heinlein is not necessarily a bad thing to emulate...

Polly and Charles Newton are twins, decanted simultaneously and raised as siblings by Martha Newton, the director of Colony One, the biggest and best-established of the four Martian colonies. They're Martian teens, through and through. Polly has firm plans to become a spaceship pilot and Charles (who is, like Podkayne's little brother Clark, an "asocial genius," perhaps with a little Charles Wallace on Camazotz from A Wrinkle in Time mixed in) is already practically running Colony One's entire computing infrastructure. So they're both more than a little upset when Supervisor Newton says she's sending them both to Earth's prestigious Galileo Academy, an institution somewhat older than humanity's presence on Mars, for three solid years. Non-negotiable.

Those are Earth years, to be sure—just half the length of the Martian years Polly and Charles grew up with—but still. The twins are, in fact, the very first Martian colonists to be admitted to Galileo. It's a milestone in interplanetary relations. No pressure, guys...

Once they're in exile on heavy, bug-ridden, history-filled Old Earth, predictably enough, Polly and Charles are fish out of water... No, that's not right—Mars has no oceans. Charles and Polly are... dust bunnies struggling in the soup. Yeah, that's better—and they're welcomed by their new classmates as warmly as if that were literal rather than metaphor. Earth's gravity is too much, the sky's too far away, the food is weird... but most of all, the twins from Mars are uncultured social misfits, reared in isolation and totally unprepared for the casually elitist familiarity that unites Galileo's student body (and most of the faculty, for that matter) against them.

They do have some advantages. Charles has that whole uncanny genius thing going for him, to be sure, but even poor Polly is fearsomely bright, ferociously dedicated, fearlessly friendly if given half a chance, and—as any kid raised on a planet that has no life of its own would have to be—frightfully resourceful.

So when things start happening around the twins that seem a little too extreme to be entirely curricular, Polly and Charles are able to treat them as opportunities...

While the template that Martians Abroad follows so closely would seem to put this novel solidly into the Young Adult category, that's not really the case. This book is more of a trigger for people who remember reading Heinlein's juveniles than a reboot for new readers just now coming to science fiction at that same tender golden age.

Which, again, is not necessarily bad... just one more thing to be wary of, while you're exploring this exotic planet we call Earth.
Profile Image for Anya.
763 reviews168 followers
January 14, 2017
Downright enjoyable. The writing and pace were such that I was always happy to pick this book up to see what was going to happen to Polly next. I would have liked more time devoted to her relationship to her brother and exploring the school, especially given how short this book was!
Profile Image for Elliot.
604 reviews37 followers
December 1, 2016
I really love Carrie Vaughn, and sci-fi, so when I heard her first big project post-Kitty was a classic sci-fi I was beyond excited! And there's lots to like about this book. Vaughn's geeky roots are showing, and it is a delight for someone like me who is also a huge space nerd. She clearly devoted a lot of thought and research to the science and details in this book. What it would be like to live on Mars. What interplanetary travel might be like. What Earth would be like for someone who grew up in a place like Mars or a space station. It was a really fun thought experiment, and this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most.

Unfortunately there was a down side for this book for me, and it was in the story itself. The plot is barely present. Very little happens in this book to move the action forward. Most of this book feels like a thought experiment that had a story wedged into it, and it moves slowly as a result. While Polly was a fairly developed character most of the supporting cast, including her brother, are barely sketched in. In order for me to love this book wholeheartedly it would probably need to be about twice as long to add in more character and plotting, and move twice as fast by adding more plot movement and action.

Here's the thing, I love the way Vaughn wrote about space, but I didn't love this story. In an ideal world I find myself hoping she writes an epic space trilogy. I know she's got the chops, and that would be something I'd love to read. For now I'll just wait and see what she writes next, and hope it flows better for me than this one did.
Profile Image for Jo .
2,623 reviews48 followers
November 21, 2016
The setting a background of Martians Abroad is one that has been used often. The two main characters are sent back to Earth to go to school over their objections. One is very vocal and one trying to go with the flow. While they adjust they are placed in several dangerous situation. They big question is why target them and who is doing the targeting. A nice story that could be the start of a series or could be stand-alone. A nicely written story but nothing exciting or different from others with the same theme.
Profile Image for A Reader's Heaven.
1,592 reviews26 followers
November 5, 2018
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the Director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly's plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth--the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.
Homesick and cut off from her own plans for her future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right--there's more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

*2.5 stars*

Take any YA novel featuring whiny teenagers and stick it in space and that is pretty much what we have here. The characters are so unlikeable it is very hard to get emotionally attached to any of them. I was kinda hoping Polly would just disappear back to Mars...or anywhere else, for that matter. Her brother wasn't much better and the secondary characters were one-dimensional and didn't engage with me at all.

Which is a shame - the base of this story is quite sound. Carrie Vaughn knows how to pen a good tale, filling it with intriguing goings-on and thrilling scenes.

It is so sad that the characters were so dreadful...

Profile Image for Debbie.
986 reviews17 followers
March 4, 2017
Martians Abroad is an outstanding YA science fiction novel. We start out with our characters, Polly and Charles, two Martians getting ready to leave the only home they've ever know to attend boarding school on earth. A prestigious school, Galileo, will help Polly to achieve her goal of becoming a space pilot, but she remains angry with her mother for sending her away without even conferring with her first. She's even more annoyed with Charles, because he doesn't seem to mind at all. He just keeps insisting they go along with the program. This is difficult for Polly because her character, while being very naive, is also very suspicious. This comes across very clearly when she gets to school and is suspicious of all the other students motives, for everything they do. It turns however that her suspicions are not ungrounded and that is where the mystery begins. This was a fun page turner, that while it is YA, would be excellent for any reader of any genre.
Profile Image for Gail.
Author 28 books200 followers
July 30, 2017
Good read. I wasn't sure I would like it-- it sounded a lot like all the many other stories about teens going away to boarding school. But this is well-done, with interesting characters. The heroine, who tells her story herself in first person, is a twin without a particularly good relationship with her twin brother. She wants to be a space pilot, and has her plans for how she's going to accomplish it. But Mom has signed them up for this elite boarding school on Earth. Earth is very different from living on Mars, and Polly has a lot of adjustments to make. It makes for a good read. I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for D.L. Morrese.
Author 11 books54 followers
April 22, 2018
A brother and sister from Mars attend an exclusive school on Earth, where things are much different from home. That's pretty much the story. There's no quest, no malevolent bad guy, no clear mystery... not much of a plot at all, really, until one begins to gel well past the middle of the book. The main characters, however, are fairly charming. I have vague recollections of one of the first series of YA science fiction stories I read as a child: Tom Corbett: Space Cadet. (Yes, I'm that old.) I don't remember the stories themselves, but I recall the feeling I had reading them, and Martians Abroad felt the same. It's good, old fashion YA science fiction.
Profile Image for Lou Berger.
Author 23 books26 followers
May 8, 2023
Like Podkayne, but BETTER!!

Inspired by Heinlein’s famous juvenile novel, PODKAYNE OF MARS, Vaughn penned a vastly superior novel that reflects how she would have loved to see the story unfold.

Kudos to Vaughn for strong characters that engage beautifully with one another, and a story that left me wanting more!
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 1 book5 followers
April 22, 2017
Is this a YA sci-fi novel? Because it reads like YA. But my bookseller who usually doesn't put me wrong on sci-fi recommendations didn't mention that fact. This book was okay. The characters are all teens, the plot is kind of silly and melodramatic. It's a quick read. Someone else compared this to The Expanse series but I don't see it. The Expanse actually has relatively complex characters and plots.
Profile Image for Bree Pye.
347 reviews11 followers
June 15, 2017
As always, Vaughn delivers a solidly entertaining story with her trademark humor and wit. I enjoyed this one from cover to cover and hope we are gifted with another snapshot into the lives of Polly and Charles at some future point!
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