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Red Planet

Red Planet

4.5 45
by Robert A. Heinlein

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Jim Marlow and his strange-looking Martian friend Willis were allowed to travel only so far. But one day Willis unwittingly tuned into a treacherous plot that threatened all the colonists on Mars, and it set Jim off on a terrfying adventure that could save—or destroy—them all!


Jim Marlow and his strange-looking Martian friend Willis were allowed to travel only so far. But one day Willis unwittingly tuned into a treacherous plot that threatened all the colonists on Mars, and it set Jim off on a terrfying adventure that could save—or destroy—them all!

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Robert A. Heinlein's Red Planet (originally published by Scribner's in 1949 as a "juvenile" novel) is considered one of science fiction's seminal works for good reason: It not only laid the foundations for later Heinlein classics like Stranger in a Strange Land and Double Star but also -- along with other thematically challenging Heinlein "young adult" books like Space Cadet, Starman Jones, and Citizen of the Galaxy -- has helped convert countless young readers into lifelong science fiction fans.

Dramatically different from the original 1949 edition, (in which Scribner editors, fearing some passages were too controversial for their young readership, hacked and slashed entire sections), this version of Red Planet comes directly from Heinlein's original manuscript. Equal parts rip-roaring sci-fi adventure and powerfully compelling coming-of-age tale, the novel revolves around the relationship between young space colonist Jim Marlowe and Willis, a globular Martian creature with retractable appendages and eye stalks. After saving Willis from a frightening native predator, Jim brings the sentient alien home and begins to bond with his furry friend. But upon taking Willis to school, Jim inadvertently sets off a chain of events that not only uncovers a plot that threatens the lives of all colonists on Mars but also sparks a planet-wide revolution! Heinlein's Red Planet is so much more than a classic science fiction story -- it's an invaluable piece of literary history. With stunning new cover art from master artist John Picacio, this definitive edition is an absolute must-read for young and old science fiction fans alike. Paul Goat Allen

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

Red Planet

Chapter One


The thin air of Mars was chill but not really cold. It was not yet winter in southern latitudes and the daytime temperature was usually above freezing.

The queer creature standing outside the door of a dome-shaped building was generally manlike in appearance, but no human being ever had a head like that. A thing like a coxcomb jutted out above the skull, the eye lenses were wide and staring, and the front of the face stuck out in a snout. The unearthly appearance was increased by a pattern of black and yellow tiger stripes covering the entire head.

The creature was armed with a pistol-type hand weapon slung at its belt and was carrying, crooked in its right arm, a ball, larger than a basketball, smaller than a medicine ball. It moved the ball to its left arm, opened the outer door of the building and stepped inside.

Inside was a very small anteroom and an inner door. As soon as the outer door was closed the air pressure in the anteroom began to rise, accompanied by a soft sighing sound. A loudspeaker over the inner door shouted in a booming bass, "Well? Who is it? Speak up! Speak up!"

The visitor placed the ball carefully on the floor, then with both hands grasped its ugly face and pushed and lifted it to the top of its head. Underneath was disclosed the face of an Earth-human boy. "It's Jim Marlowe, Doc," he answered.

"Well, come in. Come in! Don't stand out therechewing your nails."

"Coming." When the air pressure in the anteroom had equalized with the pressure in the rest of the house the inner door opened automatically. Jim said, "Come along, Willis," and went on in.

The ball developed three spaced bumps on its lower side and followed after him, in a gait which combined spinning, walking, and rolling. More correctly, it careened, like a barrel being manhandled along a dock. They went down a passage and entered a large room that occupied half the floorspace of the circular house plan. Doctor MacRae looked up but did not get up. "Howdy, Jim. Skin yourself. Coffee on the bench. Howdy, Willis," he added and turned back to his work. He was dressing the hand of a boy about Jim's age.

"Thanks, Doc. Oh--hello, Francis. What are you doing here?"

"Hi, Jim. I killed a water-seeker, then I cut my thumb on one of its spines."

"Quit squirming!" commanded the doctor.

"That stuff stings," protested Francis.

"I meant it to. Shut up."

"How in the world did you do that?" persisted Jim. "You ought to know better than to touch one of those things. Just burn 'em down and burn 'em up." He zipped open the front of his outdoor costume, peeled it off his arms and legs and hung it on a rack near the door. The rack held Francis's suit, the headpiece of which was painted in bright colors like an Indian brave's war paint, and the doctor's suit, the mask of which was plain. Jim was now stylishly and appropriately dressed for indoors on Mars--bare naked save for bright red jockey shorts.

"I did burn it," explained Francis, "but it moved when I touched it. I wanted to get the tail to make a necklace."

"Then you didn't burn it right. Probably left it full of live eggs. Who're you making a necklace for?"

"None of your business. And I did so burn the egg sac. What do you take me for? A tourist?"

"Sometimes I wonder. You know those things don't die until sundown."

"Don't talk nonsense, Jim," the doctor advised. "Now, Frank, I'm going to give you an anti-toxin shot. 'Twon't do you any good but it'll make your mother happy. Long about tomorrow your thumb will swell up like a poisoned pup; bring it back and I'll lance it."

"Am I going to lose my thumb?" the boy asked.

"Nope. But you'll do your scratching with your left hand for a few days. Now, Jim, what brings you here? Bellyache?"

"No, Doc. It's Willis."

"Willis, eh? He looks pert enough to me." The doctor stared down at the creature. Willis was at his feet, having come up to watch the dressing of Frank's thumb. To do so he had protruded three eye stalks from the top of his spherical mass. The stalks stuck up like thumbs, in an equal-sided triangle, and from each popped a disturbingly human eye. The little fellow turned around slowly on his tripod of bumps, or pseudopeds, and gave each of his eyes a chance to examine the doctor.

"Get me a cup of Java, Jim," commanded the doctor, then leaned over and made a cradle of his hands. "Here, Willis--upsi-daisy!" Willis gave a little bounce and landed in the doctor's hands, withdrawing all protuberances as he did so. The doctor lifted him to the examining table; Willis promptly stuck out legs and eyes again. They stared at each other.

The doctor saw a ball covered with thick, close-cropped fur, like sheared sheepskin, and featureless at the moment save for supports and eye stalks. The Mars creature saw an elderly male Earthman almost completely covered with wiry grey-and-white hair. The hair was thin on top, thick on chin and cheeks, moderately thick to sparse on chest and arms and back and legs. The middle portion of this strange unMartian creature was concealed in snow-white shorts. Willis enjoyed looking at him.

"How do you feel, Willis?" inquired the doctor. "Feel good? Feel bad?"

A dimple showed at the very crown of the ball between the stalks, dilated to an opening. "Willis fine!" he said. His voice was remarkably like Jim's.

"Fine, eh?" Without looking around the doctor added, "Jim! Wash those cups again. And this time, sterilize them. Want everybody around here to come down with the pip?"

"Okay, Doc," Jim acknowledged, and added to Francis, "You want some coffee, too?"

"Sure. Weak, with plenty of cow."

"Don't be fussy." Jim dipped into the laboratory sink and managed to snag another cup. The sink was filled with dirty dishes. Nearby a large flask of coffee simmered over a Bunsen burner. Jim washed three cups carefully, put them through the sterilizer, then filled them.

Doctor MacRae accepted a cup and said, "Jim, this citizen says he's okay. What's the trouble?"

"I know he says he's all right, Doc, but he's not. Can't you examine him and find out?"

"Examine him? How, boy? I can't even take his temperature because I don't know what his temperature ought to be. I know as much about his body chemistry as a pig knows about patty-cake. Want me to cut him open and see what makes him tick?"

Willis promptly withdrew all projections and became as featureless as a billiard ball. "Now you've scared him," Jim said accusingly.

"Sorry." The doctor reached out and commenced scratching and tickling the furry ball. "Good Willis, nice Willis. Nobody's going to hurt Willis. Come on, boy, come out of your hole."

Willis barely dilated the sphincter over his speaking diaphragm. "Not hurt Willis?" he said anxiously in Jim's voice.

"Not hurt Willis. Promise."

"Not cut Willis?"

"Not cut Willis. Not a bit."

The eyes poked out slowly. Somehow he managed an expression of watchful caution, though he had nothing resembling a face. "That's better," said the doctor. "Let's get to the point, Jim. What makes you think there's something wrong with this fellow, when he and I can't see it?"

"Well, Doc, it's the way he behaves. He's all right indoors, but outdoors--He used to follow me everywhere, bouncing around the landscape, poking his nose into everything."

"He hasn't got a nose," Francis commented.

"Go to the head of the class. But now, when I take him out, he just goes into a ball and I can't get a thing out of him. If he's not sick, why does he act that way?"

"I begin to get a glimmering," Doctor MacRae answered. "How long have you been teamed up with this balloon?"

Jim thought back over the twenty-four months of the Martian year. "Since along toward the end of Zeus, nearly November."

"And now here it is the last of March, almost Ceres, and the summer gone. That suggest anything to your mind?"

"Uh, no."

"You expect him to go hopping around through the snow? We migrate when it gets cold; he lives here."

Jim's mouth dropped open. "You mean he's trying to hibernate?"

"What else? Willis's ancestors have had a good many millions of years to get used to the seasons around here; you can't expect him to ignore them."

Jim looked worried. "I had planned to take him with me to Syrtis Minor."

"Syrtis Minor? Oh, yes, you go away to school this year, don't you? You, too, Frank."

"You bet!"

"I can't get used to the way you kids grow up. It was just last week I was painting your thumb to keep you from sucking it."

"I never sucked my thumb!" Francis answered.

"No? Then it was some other kid. Never mind. I came to Mars so that the years would be twice as long, but it doesn't seem to make any difference."

"Say, Doc, how old are you?" inquired Francis.

"Mind your own business. Which one of you is going to study medicine and come back to help me with my practice?"

Neither one answered. "Speak up, speak up!" urged the doctor. "What are you going to study?"

Excerpted from Red Planet
by Robert A. Heinlein 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.

Meet the Author

Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) is widely recognized as one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time, a status confirmed in 1974 when the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America gave him their first Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is best known for works including Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and the sensational bestseller Stranger in a Strange Land.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
July 7, 1907
Date of Death:
May 8, 1988
Place of Birth:
Butler, Missouri
Place of Death:
Carmel, California
Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, 1929; attended University of California, Los Angeles, 1934, for graduate study in physic

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Red Planet 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Sioux7 More than 1 year ago
One of Heinlein's juvenile stories, I read it as an adult and was completely captivated. Great story telling. We need more Heinlein eBooks!!!
Feldercarb More than 1 year ago
I read this story in junior high school and loved it. It has been over fifty years since I read it and I must say I enjoyed it even more this time! I liked the cover of the first edition because it showed the two main characters and "Willis" seeking shelter inside a large martian plant! That image stayed with me. This new cover is confusing and cluttered! Red PLanet is early work by Heilein and his writing style is crisp and clear and the conversations down to earth. His descriptions of mars and the various earther colonies are brillant, and by using the imaginary canals on the planet, he solved the transportation problem quite easily. This is pure fantasy, based on great scienctific facts known in the 1940's and 1950's, and is a most enjoyable read. I would encourage young people to read it and to lose themselves in the joys of pure imagination! A great book!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a wonderfully written book. It was very good and I read it within two days, reason being I couldn't put it down. It was a very exciting book with a great plot. If you like science fiction novels you'll love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
General Heinlein: Tom Clancy, David Webber, and Stephen King all credit Heinlein as thier mentor. More need not be said about the three decade all time Sci-Fi Grand Master, but this. If you haven't read Heinlein, you haven't yet lived. First Sci-Fi to Movie, perennial Best Seller (30 Million in print ten years ago!) Never off the shelves in even the poorestly sci-fi stocked book store, you can't go wrong! This adventure is about a youth being raised on Mars (As best Science knew it then -- RAH's science and engineering is ALWAYS right!) and is a rollickin good adventure tale of a few school mates discover a plot that threaten the colonist's welfare and face multiple dangers heading it off. Then again there are the Martians. Enjoy -- I haven't re-read in years, but I envy you the first experience!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A real adventure book. Great for boys. There are the frozen canals, Willis, Jim-Boy, the Colonial Government, and the Martians appear! As someone said, Robert A. Heinlein is always right.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Join Jim on the first Colony of Mars. When Jim finds a strange alien lifeform and decides to keep it his life goes haywire. He finds out information that puts his family in danger and must trek across the Planet surface. definatley keeps your intrest and intruges your imagination.
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