Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

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Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: It's not hard to work out things are going badly in the battle with the aliens when you're told you'll be safer on Mars, even though the air is only sort of breathable, the place hasn't been fully terra-formed – and you're twelve years old.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 330 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781405268677

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If you want to know how the average young adolescent thinks and speaks, read this book. Yes, it's a sci-fi adventure with monsters and robots and space travel. And yes, it's a story of war to the death with invisible aliens. But kids are kids, no matter what the circumstances, and anyone brave enough to get on a ship for a week with three hundred young people and no parents is, frankly, asking for trouble.

You might be surprised, on reading the premise, to discover that the first word which comes to mind when describing this book is funny, but there you are. It's narrated by Alice, a wry, dry-witted girl who, in the face of mayhem, imminent death and nasty creepy crawlies adopts that dead-pan, where's-the-funny tone brought to the masses by the inimitable Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her friends, and employed in homes, classrooms and playgrounds ever since. The aliens who kindly offered to reverse global warming are slowly freezing the whole planet, and despite the efforts of space-fighters like Alice's mother, things are starting to get really chilly. So, a group of children are sent to Mars, where they will continue their studies and train as the next generation of warriors. So far, so serious. But it is scientists, not educationalists, who have set up the school, and for many of them it must be a long, long time since they were young. They create robot teachers for each age group, and the scene where the little ones get to meet theirs is a gem. Well, what would you do if you were faced with a hulking, booming giant robot teddy bear?

Let's get another thing straight. The narrator of this excellent story might be a girl, but this is definitely a book for both male and female readers. The team that sets off into the unknown after a terrible crisis at the Mars space station is comprised of two boys and two girls, and features all the usual tropes: the girls think the older boy is showing off (he is) and the boys delight in antics to annoy the girls like being the first human ever to do a wee on the Acidalia Planitia. And when some unsupervised older kids go all Lord of the Flies, there's no difference between the genders. They're both horrible.

Oddly enough, in all the humour and excitement, there are some fascinating issues raised which thoughtful readers will surely consider worthy of further discussion. First, there's the matter of the young people selected to go to Mars. Alice is used to being singled out because her mother is such a brilliant space fighter, but it soon sinks in that she's nobody special here, because everybody's parents are either famous or powerful or rich. It makes you wonder: if Earth were to be invaded tonight, and we had to send a bunch of young people off-planet, whose genes exactly would we be depending on to continue the human race? The offspring of footballers? Rock stars? Politicians? Royalty? A token scientist? And then there's the terrible but hidden effect of war: lack of choice. Alice's friend Josephine longs to be an archaeologist and a composer and a mum, but she's faced with the fact that if we want the aliens beaten she'll just have to be a soldier. Even in a book as hilarious as this, it's heart-breaking to think how many books, plays, poems, medical and scientific discoveries simply haven't happened because there's something more urgent going on. And then, intriguingly, we actually get to see the invasion of Earth from the aliens' point of view. War is never just black and white, whatever the propaganda says.

Read this book. If the gods of publishing are at all fair it will be popular and well-known, discussed and debated and re-enacted (well, some bits of it) up and down the country. And best of all? It's the first of a series. Bliss.

Urban Outlaws by Peter Jay Black has the pizzazz and speed of this book, though it can be more serious in tone. And for that mix of technology, humour and deadly peril, try Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer. What would Foaly make of that robot goldfish?

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Buy Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall at


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