Martians Abroad: A Novel

Martians Abroad: A Novel

by Carrie Vaughn

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765382207
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 01/17/2017
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

CARRIE VAUGHN, the New York Times bestselling author of the Kitty Norville books, is also the author of the standalone novels After the Golden Age and Discord's Apple, and the young adult books Voice of Dragons and Steel.

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Martians Abroad


By Carrie Vaughn

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2016 Carrie Vaughn, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8220-7


CHAPTER 1

There are a thousand shades of brown.

My scooter skimmed above the surface so fast the ground blurred, kicking up a wake of dust that hazed from the color of dried blood to beige, depending on the angle of light. Ahead, rust-colored hills made chocolate-colored shadows. The plains before the hills were tan, but in a few hours they'd be vivid, blush-colored, beautiful. Right now, the sun was low, a spike of light rising from the rocky horizon in the early morning. The sky above was pale cinnamon.

I had nothing to do today. Classes were over, I hadn't started my internship at the astrodrome yet. So I went riding, just out, as far and as fast as I could. A track ran around the perimeter of the colony — a service road, really, but no official vehicles went out at this hour, so I had it to myself. Made one circuit, then headed to the open plain, avoiding weather stations, mining units, and other obstacles. I revved the engine, the battery did its job, and the lifts popped me half a meter into the air. Dust flew behind me, and I crouched over the handlebars, sucking air through my mask, blinking behind my goggles. The wind beating against me would be cold, but I was warm and safe inside my environment suit. I could ride around the whole planet like this.

"Polly? Are you there?" The voice of Charles, my twin brother, burst over the comm in my helmet. Of course it was Charles. Who else would want to ruin my perfect morning?

"What?" I grumbled. If I could turn off the helmet radio I would, but the safety default meant it stayed on.

"Mom wants to see us."

"Now?"

"Would I have bothered calling you otherwise? Of course now. Get back here."

"Why couldn't she call me herself?"

"She's a busy woman, Polly. Stop arguing."

Charles and I were only nominally twins, in that 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. Never mind that Mom decided later that she wanted a girl and a boy rather than just a girl, and that she then decided that it would be fun to have them together instead of one after the other. Or maybe she thought she'd save time that way, raising two babies at once. At any rate, I was frozen first, then Charles was. I'm older.

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.

"Okay. Fine." I slowed the scooter, turning in a wide arc and heading for home. I'd gone farther than I'd thought. I couldn't see the bunkers over the garages, air locks, and elevators leading down to the colony, but I knew which way to go and how to get there, and if I got off track, the homing beacon on the scooter would point the way. But I didn't get lost.


* * *

I took my time cleaning up and putting things away, waiting in the air lock while vacuums sucked away every last speck of Martian dust from my suit, putting the scooter through the scrubber so not a particle of grit would get into the colony air system. Once everything was clean, I checked the scooter back into its bay and folded my suit and breather into my locker. I put the air tank in with a rack of empties for a technician to refill. I carefully double- checked everything, because you always double-checked everything when things like clean air and functional environment suits were involved, but no matter how long I took with the chores, it wouldn't be long enough. I couldn't put off talking to Mom forever. So I brushed the creases out of my jumpsuit and pulled my brown hair into a tail to try to make it look decent. Not that it helped.

The office of Supervisor Martha Newton, director of Colony One operations, was the brain of the entire settlement, overseeing the engineering and environmental workstations, computer banks, monitors, controls, and surveillance that kept everything running. The place bustled, various department heads and their people, all in Mars-brown uniforms, passing along the corridor, ducking into rooms, studying handheld terminals, speaking urgently. It was all critical and productive, which was exactly how Mom liked it. Supervisor Newton herself had a private room in the back of operations. Her office as well as her house, practically — she kept a fold-away cot there, and a stack of self-heating meal packets in one of the cupboards for when she worked late. Some days she didn't come home. Usually, when she wasn't sleeping or fixing casseroles, she kept the place clean, spotless, like a laboratory. Nothing cluttered her gray alloy desk except the computer screen tilted toward the chair. Two more chairs sat on the other side of the desk. The cot, her jacket, and emergency breather were tucked in a closet with a seamless door; her handheld and other office detritus remained hidden in a drawer. A window in back looked over the central atrium gardens. Anyone entering, seeing her sitting there, expression serene, would think she ran all of Colony One by telepathy. I wouldn't put it past her.

When I finally arrived, sliding open the door, she was sitting just like that, back straight, her brown hair perfectly arranged in a bob, wearing neither a frown nor a smile. Her beige-and-brown uniform was clean, neatly pressed, buttoned at the collar — perfect.

Charles was already here, slouching in one of the extra chairs. My brother had grown ten centimeters in the last year, and his legs stuck out like he didn't know what to do with them. I'd been taller than him before last year. Now he stared down at me and made jokes about my scalp.

They both looked at me, and I felt suddenly self-conscious. My jumpsuit was wrinkled, my hair was already coming loose, and I could feel the chill morning air still burning on my cheeks. I couldn't pretend I hadn't been out racing on the scooter for no reason at all. Maybe she wouldn't ask.

"Polly, thank you for coming," Mom said. As if I'd had a choice. As if I could find a place on the whole planet where she couldn't find me. "Have a seat."

I pulled up the other chair and sat; the three of us were at the points of an equilateral triangle. I wondered what Charles and I had done to get in trouble. This wasn't about taking the scooter out, was it? I couldn't think of anything else I'd done that she didn't already know about. Charles was usually too smart to get caught when he did things like hack a mining rover or borrow gene-splicing lab equipment to engineer blue strawberries just to see if he could. I glanced at him, trying to get a hint, but he wouldn't look at me.

We waited, expectant. Mom seemed to be studying us. The corners of her lips turned up, just a bit, which confused me.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing at all," she said. "Just the opposite, in fact. I'm sorry — I was just thinking about how quickly time passes. It seems like yesterday you were both still learning how to walk."

This was starting to get weird. She usually talked about how much better she liked us once we started walking and talking and acting like actual people instead of needy babies. Mom wasn't a fan of neediness.

She rearranged her hands, leaned forward, and even seemed excited. Happy, almost. "I've got some really good news. I've secured a wonderful opportunity for the both of you. You're going to the Galileo Academy."

Frowning, Charles straightened. I blinked at him, wondering what he knew that I didn't. I said, "What's that?" The way she said it made me think I should have heard of it.

"It's on Earth," Charles said flatly.

"You're sending us to Earth?" I said, horrified.

Earth was old, grubby, crowded, archaic, backward, stifling — the whole point of being on Mars, at Colony One, was to get away from Earth. Why would she send us back there?

"This is 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." She was eager, trying to sell us on the idea. Trying hard to make it sound like the best thing ever and not the disaster it was. This was clearly for her, not us. This was going to be good for her.

I wanted to get up and throw the chair into a wall, just to make noise. I wanted to either scream or cry — both options seemed reasonable.

But I only declared, "No. I don't want to go."

"It's already settled," Mom said. "You're going."

"But what about my internship? I'm supposed to start at the astrodrome next week. I'm supposed to start flying, really flying —" No more skimmers and scooters and suborbital shuttles, I was going to bust out of the atmosphere, get into pilot training and starships. I didn't want to do anything else, much less go to school on Earth.

"The astrodrome will still be there when you're finished," she said.

"Finished when? How long is this going to take?"

"The program is three years."

I had to do math in my head. "Their years or ours? How long is it really?"

"Polly, I thought you'd be excited about this," she said, like it was my fault my life was falling apart before my eyes. "It'll be your first interplanetary trip — you're always talking about how you want to get into space —"

"As a pilot, not as baggage, just to end up dirtside on Earth. And you didn't even ask! Why didn't you ask if I wanted to go?"

Her frown hardened. The supervisor expression — she was right, everyone else was wrong. "Because I'm your mother, and I know what's best."

How was I supposed to argue with that?

I crossed my arms and glared. "I don't want to go. You can't make me."

"I've already let the supervisors at your internships know that you won't be participating. The next Earthbound passenger ship leaves in two weeks — you're allowed five kilos of personal cargo. Most of your supplies, uniforms and the like, will be provided by the school, so you shouldn't need to take much with you."

"Five kilos on Mars or Earth?" Charles asked. He'd been scheduled to start an internship in colony operations. He'd run the planet within a decade. We both had plans.

"Mom, I'm not going," I said.

"Yes, Polly, you are."

Charles hadn't moved, and he still wouldn't look at me. Why wasn't he saying anything? Why wasn't he arguing with her? He didn't actually want to go, did he?

If he wasn't going to help, I'd have to do this myself, then. "I'll submit a petition to the council. I'm old enough to declare emancipation, I can still get that internship —"

"Not without my approval —"

"If I declare emancipation I won't need your approval!"

"— without my approval as director of operations," she said.

That was a really dirty trick. That was pulling rank. And it wasn't fair. Charles raised a brow, as if this had suddenly gotten interesting.

Mom took a breath, indicating that I'd riled her, which was a small comfort. "Polly, you need to plan long term here. If you finish at Galileo Academy, you'll be able to pick your piloting program. You'll qualify for a program on Earth. You'll be captaining starships in half the time you would be if you went through the astrodrome program here."

Right now my plan was interning at the astrodrome between semesters learning maintenance, traffic control, and support positions like navigation and communication. I'd have to finish school, then try for an apprenticeship while I applied for piloting-certification programs — and no one ever got into a program on the first try, the process was so competitive. I'd have to keep working, adding to my résumé until I finally made it, and then add on a couple of years for the program itself.

If what she said was true, this Galileo Academy was impressive enough that I could get into a piloting program on my first try. Which sounded too good to be true. She held this out as the shiniest lure she could find, and I was furious that I was ready to buy in to the scheme.

I'd had a plan. She could have at least warned me that she was plotting behind my back.

"But why does it have to be Earth?" My voice had gotten smaller, like now that the shouting was done I was going to have to start crying. I clamped down on the impulse.

"Because everything goes back to Earth eventually." She looked at my brother. "Charles? Do you have anything you want to say?"

"No," he said. "You're right, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity." I couldn't tell if he was mocking her or not. He might have been serious and mocking at the same time.

Her smile was thin. "I'll be home for supper tonight. We'll talk more about it then."

Dismissed, like a couple of her underlings. I stormed out of the office, Charles following more calmly, and the door slid closed behind us. We walked home. A straight corridor led to a another corridor, long and curving, that circled the entire colony. Plenty of time for stomping before we got to the residential section and our quarters. Not that Charles stomped. He seemed oddly calm.

"Why?" I asked him. "Why is she doing this to us?"

"You should look at it as an opportunity, not a prison sentence."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"My guess? She wants us to know what Earth is like. For real, not just in the propaganda."

That actually made sense. "Okay. But why?"

He looked at me down his nose. The don't-you-ever-think? look. "It's where we're from."

"We're from Mars," I said.

"'We' as in humanity are from Earth. The dominant political, social, and economic structures that define us are still dependent on Earth."

"So we're just supposed to automatically think Earth is great."

"It might not be so bad. It might even be interesting."

"There's got to be a way we can get out of it."

We walked a few steps, and I thought he was thinking, coming up with a plan to get out of it. I was depending on him coming up with a plan.

"I don't think I want to get out of it," he said, and my heart sank.

"Charles —"

"It's only a few years. And you'll get into a piloting program afterward. Why are you arguing?"

I was arguing because my world had been turned upside down and shaken in a way it never had before, and I didn't much like it.


* * *

Two weeks at home before I had to leave for years. Years. Nobody left Mars. People came to Mars, because it was better, for the jobs and the wide-open spaces and the chance to be part of something new and great like the colonies. That was why our grandparents had come here. Mom was one of the first of the new generation born on Mars, and Charles and I were the second. Mars wasn't a frontier anymore, it was home. People came here with the expectation that they would never leave. And why would they? Going back and forth was hard enough — expensive enough — that you couldn't just pop in for a visit. If you came, if you left, it was for years, and that was that.

But people did leave, because a ship departed for Earth every two months. Mom must have known about this for a while to book me and Charles far enough in advance. She didn't tell us about it because she knew we'd try to dodge. Or, I would try to dodge. She didn't want to spend months arguing with me.

I lay on the grassy lawn in the middle of the colony's main atrium. Partially sunk underground, a lensed dome let in and amplified the sun, feeding the lush plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs. The light above me was a filtered, golden glow, and beyond it lay pink sky. I wanted to memorize the scene.

My best friend, Beau, lay beside me. We held hands. I didn't want to ever let go. I'd told him the news, and he'd taken it like Charles had — matter- of-fact, maybe even curious. "You'll get to see the ship. Aren't you even excited about that?" I was, but after all the carrying on I'd done, I wouldn't admit that. The ship would be carrying me away from home, which put a damper on the whole experience.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn. Copyright © 2016 Carrie Vaughn, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.

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Martians Abroad 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
mstami More than 1 year ago
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn Martians Abroad is the beginning of a epic series, with many connections to other great book series and to life lessons. I would recommend this book for any Young Adult readers, as a gateway book to many other science fiction books and series. The connection to Mars although tenuous, that the main characters are from a Martian colony give a remarkably realistic viewpoint of future colonization. Polly, although I would say her name is unremarkable, and you tend to say “ohh yeah that is her name”, is the main character in the story. Polly is an adventurous girl, we see that in the first scene of the book as she is riding over the Martian landscape. Polly has many personal strengths and the odd amount of personal flaws to make her a humanistic character. She is relatable in to the focused audience of the book, and to older audiences as she is a reminder of our youth, and “how things are life and death as a teenager”, as Carrie Vaughn described in her book signing. Charles is her “twin” brother use that term lightly. He is an enigmatic character that is developed in the book from his sister's point of view. In the end as a reader you still question if he is maniacal or just ambivalent. The “twins” are sent to school on Earth for the connections that they can make in Earth society. They are manipulated by various factors, to show their potential and test their abilities. Both are capable and courageous characters that the reader is rooting for. Teaching young readers that they can have faith in themselves, and that although they may be reluctant if they are true to their ideals they can not only lead but protect those they love and care about. A great book for bully proofing and teaching teamwork.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In_My_Humble_OpinionDA More than 1 year ago
Carrie Vaughn has built a fantastic world where humans have expanded into space and a subtle classism that has developed. Kind of like how Americans feel when they go to Europe and see hundreds of years history made before their own began. Polly & Charles are twins born and raised on Mars are being sent to an exclusive school on Earth by their autocratic mother, the director of the Mars Colony. Polly is devastated. She has dreams of becoming a piolet. She has plans made. Charles will thrive anywhere he is a genius but all Polly wants to do is learn to fly. They go and have to learn how to deal with new places, new people and a great deal more gravity. There is an us v. then attitude between the Earth bound students and those that come from off planet. There is also a Snape like head mistress who doesn’t like Polly at all. Then there are the accidents… Surprises and adventure abound. Martians Abroad is a clean well written story that is great for teens and adults alike.
Van_shortandsweetreviews More than 1 year ago
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Carrie Vaughn is well known for her ever popular Urban Fantasy Kitty Norville Series, but Vaughn branches off into something different with Martians Aboard, a new standalone Sci-Fi novel for Young Adult (but can be enjoyed by everyone of course). If I am correct, I think this is Vaughn’s first foray into Young Adult, and she did it marvelously. Martians Aboard kind of reminded me of CW’s Star Crossed, minus the whole romance aspect and being a whole lot better. But what we had was a group of teens from across the solar system being sent to earth’s Galileo Academy to promote interplanetary relationships between humans and offworlders...and as you can imagine...high school is no joke. And if a student is able to succeed and pass at Galileo Academy, then they’ll be ready for anything. For the real world. Readers follow twins Polly and Charles, the only martians at school as they try to navigate the unknown territories of earth and high school. I absolutely loved Polly. Teenagers, or characters in most Young Adult novels come off annoying and angsty, you know, typical teens. However, Polly and her brother, lived somewhat a sheltered life, I mean, living on Mars had a lot of restriction and there’s only so much one can do on a dry, dusty terrain. Polly is definitely not your typical teenager and I think her obliviousness to earth’s social norms made her all the more endearing. There was a lot of “accidents” occurring coincidentally since Polly and the other colonies kids arrived at Galileo Academy (one of the most prestigious school in all of the colonies). Unlike most of Polly’s classmates who only looked out for themselves; Polly always found herself in the middle of those “accidents”, jumping in front of danger to rescue a fellow classmate, because it was the right thing to do. I loved her impulsiveness, bravery, selflessness and dedication to her friends and family. Polly’s group of friends were all just as great and super supportive. My favorites scenes was when everyone worked together, the Earth kids and offworlder kids. And despite their differences of living in different part of the solar system; at the end of the day they’re all the same, a bunch of kids dealing with the same problems, up and downs of high school. All in all Martians Abroad was a very enjoyable read and everything wrapped up nicely (however, a little too quickly). Too bad this is a standalone. I wish there was more. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Polly, the enigmatic Charles and their buddies. Martians Abroad is a coming of age story and is a character driven novel, so there isn’t a lot of action. But trust me, watching Polly develop relationships with her fellow Galileo classmates was just as interesting and had me finishing the book all in one sitting! I was glued to the pages. I highly recommend everyone checking out this fun, light and charming Sci-Fi YA. It will not disappoint!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pod kyle of Mars was one of my favorite stories when I wasyoung. I just reread his original story, and found it a good example of how even a well intentioned, relatively enlightened person of that time still didn't grok feminism. Today's girls would read his book as satire, even the parts he didn't mean that way. This is the story he should have written. Well done.