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Across the plains, the black shell of the gigantic dome gleamed in late-afternoon sunshine. It was beautiful against the red soil, laden with iron oxides, and the faded rose-colored Martian sky. From the bottom of the mountain where I stood, it took less than an hour's trek across the plains to reach it-in good weather.
But we would not get that hour. Sand rattled hard against my titanium casing, warning me of how little time remained. Much less than we needed.
I turned my head to the left, into the wind that raked the sand across me. A huge dark wall lifted from the north of the plains, a blanket of doom that covered more and more of the sky. Winds of near-hurricane force lifted tons of red sand particles. Already the front edge of the storm reached out to us. In less than half an hour, those tons of sand would begin to cover me and the three scientists I had been sent out of the dome to find.
"Home base," I called into my radio. "This is Rescue Force One. Please make contact. Home base. This is Rescue Force One. Please make contact."
There was no answer. Just like there had been no answer the other hundred times I'd tried in the last half hour.
A solar flare must have knocked out the satellite beam. The sun was about 140 million miles away, so weak and so far from Mars that on winter nights, the temperature here dropped to minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet all it took was a storm on the surface of the sun to fire out electromagnetic streams nearing the speed of light, and communication systems through the entire solar system would pay the price.
"Home base," I said. "This is Rescue Force One. Please make contact."
One of the scientists walked in front of me, blocking my view of the base. He leaned down and pushed his helmet visor into my forward video lens. "What are we going to do?" he shouted.
He did not have to shout. I could hear him clearly. Nor did he have to walk around in front of me. I could have seen him just as easily with my rear video lens. Or one of my side lenses.
"Forward," I said. "We cannot stop."
"No! We must make shelter."
Did he think I had not thought of this already? Standard procedure in dealing with a sandstorm was to go to high ground, unfold an emergency pop-up blanket, and crawl beneath it. The pop-up blanket made a miniature dome that would easily provide shelter for as many days as it took the storm to pass. But fools who used the pop-up blanket on low ground would be buried by the sand, never to be found again.
"Forward," I said. "Follow me."
"That's easy for you!" he hollered. "You're just a stupid machine!"
He was correct both times. It would be easy for me to travel in a sandstorm, and I was just a machine. But he was also wrong. I was more than a machine. And I was not stupid. I knew plenty.
I knew that during each Martian fall and winter, the carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere froze out of the air and onto the ground, making a giant hood of frost that covered from the pole to the equator. I knew that as spring arrived, the difference in temperatures between the sun-warmed soil and the retreating ice made for fierce winds. I knew these strong winds were so monstrous that sometimes sandstorms covered the entire planet. I knew if we took shelter, we might be trapped for days.
I also knew that the last scientist had only 10 hours of oxygen left in his tank. If we took shelter, he would die long before the storm ended.
"One of you will die if we stop," I said. "If we continue, all of you will survive."
"We'll get lost in the storm! No one survives a sandstorm."
"No," I insisted. "My navigation system is intact. We will link ourselves by cable, and I will maintain direction. All you need to do is follow."
"No!" he yelled. "Not through a sandstorm!"
"Listen," I said, "if we stop, he has no chance."
"Should three of us die instead of one?" The scientist picked up a rock and tried to smash it against my head. But since he wore a big atmosphere suit and was very slow, I moved out of the way easily.
He picked up another rock and threw it at me. I put up my arms to protect my video lenses, and the rock clanged off my elbows.
The other two scientists watched, doing nothing. They were very tired. I had rescued them from the bottom of a giant sinkhole where they had been stranded for two days.
The first scientist picked up another rock to throw. It was a big rock. Even though his suit made him clumsy, he would be able to throw it hard. Mars has very little gravity compared to Earth. A person throwing a rock the size of a grapefruit on Earth could easily throw a rock the size of a basketball on Mars.
What was I going to do? If I let the scientist with the rocks force us to stop and put up a shelter, one of them would die. But if I grabbed the scientist with the rock in my sharp metal claws, I would most certainly poke a hole in his space suit. With an atmosphere of 95 percent carbon dioxide, he would die within minutes.
Either way, it didn't look like I could find a way to make sure all three scientists made it back to the dome alive. I would fail in my task. I could not allow that.
Another rock clanged off my leg.
"No!" I said. "No!" This was getting worse. If I ran off to protect myself, then all three of them might die. But if I stayed to try to protect them, one of those rocks might smash and disable me. Which would mean all of them might die. I couldn't decide what to do.
The scientist threw another rock. It hit my shoulder.
A huge blast of sand swept over us. For a moment, I could see nothing in any direction from my four video lenses.
In the instant the air cleared again, I saw the scientist with another rock in his fist. But it was too late. Out of the swirling sand he appeared, aiming the rock toward my video lenses.
The rock smashed down.
The rose-colored sky tilted. The red soil zoomed toward me. Then everything went black....
Chapter Two "Ouch," I said.
I opened my eyes to the square, sterile room of the computer simulation lab. I was under the dome, not outside of it, stuck in a raging sandstorm. That was the good news.
The bad news was that although no rock had actually hit my body, my head hurt. That's the way it is with a virtual-reality program. It's like a computer game. Except you're actually in the game. Instead of watching your players get knocked out, it happens in a small way to you.
I pulled the surround-sight helmet off my head. My hair was slick with sweat. The concentration it took to move the virtual-reality robot controls by flexing my own muscles was hard work. It didn't help that I was also wearing a one-piece jacket and gloves, wired with thousands of tiny cables that reacted to every movement I made. I'd been in the computer program for five hours, and that jacket held every scrap of my body heat.
"Ouch is right," Rawling said, looking up from his own screen where he sat at a desk across the cramped room from me. "My readout shows he cracked three video lenses and shocked your computer drive. Basically he killed you. A human defeating a robot."
Rawling McTigre, one of the two medical doctors under the dome, was stocky and in his mid 40s. He had been a quarterback at his university back on Earth when he was younger, and his wide shoulders showed it. His short, dark hair was streaked with gray. He said his hair had turned gray from trying to look after me. I spent so much time with him that there were days when I wished he were my father. I mean, because voice-to-voice calls were far too costly as my real father traveled between Earth and Mars, and because the round trip took so long, all I really had for a father was a photo of some guy in a pilot's space suit.
"What were you thinking out there?" Rawling asked.
"Thinking? I didn't have time to think," I responded. "I'd spent four hours tracking them down, and suddenly the one goofball decides he doesn't want to be rescued. Besides, who programmed the sandstorm into this rescue operation? Wasn't it bad enough one guy is running low on oxygen and the satellite communications are down? What was next-a short circuit that left my robot unit with only one arm or one video lens in operation?"
"Tyce, Tyce, Tyce." Rawling shook a good-natured finger at me. "I don't remember anyone ever making it to stage five of that program. You have this gift, this talent, this-"
"You're about to lecture me, aren't you?" I said, sighing. "You always start your lectures by giving me a compliment. Then you let me have it."
He laughed. "You've got me figured out. But I have to discuss your mistakes and what you can learn from them. If I don't, how will you be able to control the perfect virtual-reality robot?"
"That's another thing," I said. I was hot and thirsty. I was mad at the scientist who'd knocked me out with a rock. I was grumpy. "Why do I need to control the perfect virtual-reality robot?"
Rawling gave me a strange look.
"I've been thinking about that a lot lately," I said, pressing forward. "I'm not the one who wants me to be perfect. You are."
He still said nothing. I wondered if he was mad at me.
"Don't get me wrong," I responded quickly. "It's fun to become part of the program and pretend I'm actually outside the dome. But I want the real thing. I want to get outside. I want to look up and actually see the sky and the sunset. Not just have it projected into my surround-sight helmet. I want-"
"Tyce," Rawling said quietly, "look down."
Even though I knew what was there, I looked down. At my wheelchair. At useless, crippled legs. At pants that never got ripped or dirty because I was always sitting, legs motionless, in my wheelchair.
"I know. I know," I said sadly. "Sinking into Martian sand would eat up these wheels in less than a minute. But I can't let that stop me."
He stared at me.
"You're the one," I murmured, "who always tells me this is only a handicap if I let it be a handicap."
Dome horns began to blare in short bursts. I counted four blares.
Four blares? That meant ...
"A call for everyone to assemble," Rawling said, reading my mind.
The dome director was going to speak to all 200 of us under the dome at the same time. That hadn't happened since it looked like an asteroid might hit Mars, and that had been five years ago.
"I was afraid of this," Rawling muttered. He took my surround-sight helmet off my lap and set it beside the computer on the desk in front of me. "This may be your last computer run for a while."
"It means a techie has confirmed my oxygen readings. Director Steven is going to tell all of us to avoid using electricity on anything except totally necessary activities. At least until we get our problem fixed."
"Oxygen readings? Problem fixed?" This sounded serious. Too serious. Just as serious as the look on Rawling's face.
"Over the last week," he explained, "and during routine checkups, scientists and techies complained to me about being too tired. And I've been tired myself."
Now that he mentioned it, my arms didn't feel that strong after pushing my wheelchair across the dome. Most of the time my arms were very strong, because I had to use them like my legs if I wanted my wheelchair to go anywhere.
"But I couldn't find anything wrong with them," Rawling continued. "So without telling anyone, I took some oxygen readings. The dome was down 10 percent in oxygen levels."
"That was three days ago," he said. "I didn't want to spread panic, so I kept it to myself and asked the director to get a techie to confirm it. I hoped I was doing the readings wrong."
The dome horns began to blast again. Four blares.
Rawling waited until they finished. "I guess I wasn't wrong. Worse, today my own readings showed we are now down 12 percent. Somehow the oxygen generators are failing little by little, and it looks like the problem is getting worse."
Excerpted from DEATH TRAP by SIGMUND BROUWER Copyright © 2000 by Sigmund Brouwer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
This is an amazing book and one of the few books I have found that have kept my interest all the way through the story line. I'm a 14 year old and I do not enjoy reading but this book was so interesting and captured my imagination so well that I have read all 5 books in this series. I definetly recommend this book to anyone. It has a wonderful blend of religon, science, virtual reality and other amazing topics that are wonderful worded it this book. So basicaly I love this book and it's now my favorite book ever!
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 10, 2009
I am always looking for good books that will capture the interest of my 8 and 10 year old boys. "Death Trap" drew them in from the very beginning. The title alone makes them want to give the book a shot (and not be intimidated by the lack of pictures or number of pages). I was very surprised when my 10yo finished this 257 page book in only 2 days! He thought it was a very good story-- what's not to like about robots, virtual reality and living on Mars?
The relationships between the characters and the exciting plot make this book enjoyable for the older kid set and parents as well. I personally enjoyed reading about Tyce's adventure and appreciate how his struggle to believe in God was woven into the story in a subtle and natural manner. There was no overt religiosity or preaching, but rather a plain and personal reconciliation of faith and science in the different characters.
While we received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale, we will definitely be purchasing the other books in the Robot Wars series!
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2014
If you have a budding scientist in your family, or a potential scifi/fantasy reader, this is the series for you. Sigmund Brouwer is a multi-genre author with a lot of experience telling amazing stories. This Robot Wars series has been repackaged and includes some excellent bonus material. Just within the first two chapters the reader gets quite a few twists and turns that set the tone for the rest of the book. With exploration of Mars on the bucket list of the scientific world, this is a series to be reading. Great for both boys and girls, and a superb addition to a homeschool curriculum.
Tyce is easy to relate to, and watching him grow in his faith will encourage your own child to grow in faith and trust in God as well.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2014
I am not a huge fan of science fiction, but I did enjoy this book. From the opening scene in the book where Tyce is playing a virtual-reality game, I was completely sucked in. I thought the author did a really good job in making the scientific aspects of the book easily understandable to a non-scientific reader. I think what made the book so enjoyable was that Brouwer applied realistic concerns about the future of Earth, for example over-crowding and water and food shortages, as a backdrop of why the colonization of Mars was so important.
Another aspect of this book that was so enjoyable was that the main character was a teenage boy who is in a wheelchair. There isn't a huge selection of books in which the main character is confined to a wheelchair. I appreciated the fact the author featured an intelligent, confident, capable boy who just happened to be in a wheelchair.
Brouwer is so clever in how he takes relevant, timely topics and addressed them in a way that makes readers think. For example, in the second journal in the book, he tackles genetic manipulation and cloning. I think it introduces younger readers to this topic in a thought-provoking way, without overwhelming them.
If you are looking for a book to encourage your teen boy to read more, this might be just the ticket. There is a lot to appeal to younger readers, and adult readers as well. I look forward to reading another book in this series.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2014
Posted January 27, 2014
Posted September 20, 2012
Posted August 26, 2014
This is a great science fiction story about a boy born on Mars who lives with a group of scientists including his mother on Mars. Because he was injured in birth on Mars, he goes everywhere in a wheelchair. The people on Mars are brought oxygen tanks from earth on a regular basis. Then it seems that the colonists will run out of oxygen tanks before the next shipment of air tanks arrives from earth. One of their leaders decided that some people should give up their need for oxygen so that others could live. However this handicapped boy realized microscopic sand particles were the problem. They were wearing down the ball bearings that caused the solar panel wheels to drag slightly and throw off the panel angles so not enough oxygen was collected. What was the result of his discovery? What lesson does this teach everyone about people?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 20, 2014
This was the first science fiction book that I read and I really enjoyed it. Tyce is the first child born on the Mars colony and he is writing journals while there so that others can hear about his experiences in case something happens to him and the rest of the colony. He is paralyzed from the waist down and since everyone on the Mars colony has to have a purpose his is to control a robot on Mars.
Posted August 15, 2014
What a fun and fascinating book! I loved it and really want to read more. The year is 2039 and Tyce is a 14 year old boy who was born on the planet Mars and has spent his entire life there with the first 200 settlers. He is the only child. Unfortunately he can’t move his legs and gets around in a wheelchair but he has learned to use a robot to get around as well. Science fiction but seems completely plausible and I loved how Tyce’s mom keeps pointing to God and how when you know science you logically have to believe in a creator: the details in our DNA are too great to be random. Reading this book I was reminded of the scenarios I got at school when we had to decide who should live if there were only enough resources for a few people. I really loved this book and its exciting Mars adventures!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 11, 2014
I read this book in an effort to find something cool for my son to read when he's a little older. He's currently 7 and, while this would be a bit over his head, he's going to love this series in a couple years! The book gripped me from the start, as the story was being told from a robot's point of view. It was a great way to hook the reader! As the story slowly unfolded, the main character was an incredibly likable kid... flaws and all. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but if you've got a preteen son, I'm sure he'd enjoy this series! I have to say, I've seen some boys series that are just not cool enough (too sissified, to be precise)--we need more all-out boyish stuff like this!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 6, 2014
We met Tyce who is 14 years old that is in a wheelchair and on Mars. Tyce who comes to God grows in faith.
This was my first Science fiction book and I was really surprised on how great it was. Even with it being YA it kept my attention and I wanted to find out what was going to happen. I will be looking for me books by this author.
Thanks Tyndale House for making this one of the Summer Reading books because I may have never read this book if you hadn't put it on your list. Now I am a fan of Christian Science Fiction!
Posted July 30, 2014
Surprisingly to me I liked this book. One it's science fiction which is not my normal choice. Two it's youth fiction. That being said, I was not ready for it to end. Tyce Sanders and his mother live under then dome on Mars. With a recent TV series, Under the Dome, that isn't so science fiction is it? The first part of the book deals with a sudden life threatening situation. The oxygen is running out and not every one will live. There isn't time for the next space ship from earth to arrive. Decisions must be made as to who will live and who will die. The book deals with issues such as a person's worth, honesty, bravery, security in Christ, and unconditional love. In the second part of the book Tyce's dad returns to Mars, a girl his age arrives at Mars, and he has fully learned how to control his robot body. As Tyce is called upon to rescue one of the scientists out in the greenhouse, a mystery begins to unfold. Are there aliens on Mars? Things begin to get difficult. Those Tyce felt he could trust, hurt and confuse him. People are lying and pushing him away. Knowing how it feels to have people make life altering decisions for you, spurs Tyce on. He must find the truth and protect those less fortunate than he. Warning this is a reprint of an earlier published, Mars Diaries.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2014
It is the year 2039 and teen Tyce Sanders lives on Mars! He live in an experimental colony that hopes to eventually help relieve the overpopulation of Earth. His scientist mother has asked him to tell his story in a journal for the kids on Earth who are following the Mars Project. Tyce loves science, is very smart, is in a wheelchair, and is the only young person there - in fact he's the only person ever born on Mars. This series of books follows Tyce in his Mars adventures and is two stories in one; this is the first in the series.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! Totally not my typical demographic, but I liked it so much I'm going to go get the rest of the series. Your pre-teens/teens will (especially) love it!
Posted July 18, 2014
In Robot Wars, Book #1: Death Trap, we are introduced to 14 year old Tyce, the first - and so far only - kid to be born and to live in an experimental community on Mars in 2039. Due to a spinal injury that happened when he was a baby, Tyce is disabled (his legs are crippled) and he uses a wheelchair. He longs to go outside the dome that they live in on mars and actually see what the real Mars is like rather than seeing it through a virtual reality program, but he can’t due to having to use his wheelchair which would sink in the sand on Mars. At the beginning of the series Tyce is not a Christian. His mom is a Christian and tells Tyce about God and trys to convince him to put his faith in God, but Tyce only believes in science and what he can see and measure.
Death Trap is split up into two journals. The two journals were originally published as books one and two in the Mars Diaries series.
In the first journal, the community on Mars is faced with an oxygen crisis where they are running out of oxygen and must figure out what to do. If they don’t find a way to fix the problem quickly, they could all die. During this crisis, a long kept secret is revealed to Tyce and he must make a tough decicision of his own.
In the second journal, a scientist working in an experimental greenhouse is attacked by some unknown creatures. There aren’t supposed to be any living creatures on Mars, so what are these creatures and where did they come from? Could they be aliens? That is what Tyce wants to find out.
I used to see the original versions of these books (when they were published as the Mars Diaries series) a lot at my local bookstores and thrift stores and for some reason was never interested in them. Apparently I thought they were about a totally different plot or of a different genre than what they actually are. I wish I had given them a chance and read one of the books sooner as I did enjoy reading the first book in the Robot Wars series and probably would have liked it even more when I was younger. The book was interesting and had several twists in the plots. The first journal had some very emotional parts in it. I liked the pace of the book and I wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I really did like the book and I would now like to read the rest of the series to find out what happens to Tyce in his other Mars adventures.
I think this book is a good book for the ages it is intended for, and some adults (like me) will enjoy it as well, although a lot of adults will probably find it too simplistic. I like that this series can be read by both boys and girls. It seems there are an abundance of books published by Christian publishers for girls, but not many for boys. I definitely think this would be a great series for boys to read, especially if they are interested in space, science fiction, and robots.
One thing I do not like so far about this series is the newer “Robot Wars” title. I think it can be misleading as there is no actual robot war in this book (and although I haven’t read the other books in this series, I don’t think there is one in them either). I thought the Mars Diaries title for the series was a better choice that wouldn’t lead to confusion about what this book is about.
Posted July 12, 2014
Death Trap is an interesting sci fi book. I loved Tyce, the first to be born on Mars. He was such a bright teenager. I loved how the author used his imagination on how life would be like living on Mars in the future. I found the book to be funny at times. A great book for middle schoolers. 5 stars.
Posted July 12, 2014
Engaging book - hard to put down
While the Robot Wars title is groan worthy (really, you're going to be THAT obvious about trying to hook Star Wars fans??) this first book, Death Trap, is very good. The story is engaging and kept me turning the pages to see what happens next.The end of the book definitively made me want to go find the next in the series to keep reading. Well written, and scientifically informative - without being boring or getting bogged down. I thought how the author made it clear that science and faith in God were not mutually exclusive was really cool - conveying that to people is one of my passions, and this is an awesome way to do that. This book is not just for young adults - adults will find it interesting too!
Word of warning, though, this series is the Mars Diaries series by the same author, but repackaged, and some of the information has been updated to reflect modern times - so it's not entirely new. That being said, it is still a little different than the original. Kindof like reading one of the original Hardy Boy books and then reading the same story that had been updated to reflect modern detective methods: It's worth reading the old and the new books. Highly recommended.
Posted June 6, 2014
Excellent. Phenomenal. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure, the science, the life on Mars, and the humor. Tyce is very likeable and believable. His thought processes are interesting as he learns and grows. This was awesome, and the explanations at the end having to do with science and Mr. Brouwer made it just that much better. Looks like a great series for kids and adults.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 17, 2013
Posted November 8, 2012