Robert A. Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars 8

4.00 avg. rating (86% score) - 1 vote
Podkayne of Mars
Robert A. Heinlein
Science Fiction

Podkayne of Mars Podkayne Fries, age 8 1/2 (about 17 Terran years), grew up on Mars and loves every inch of it. It’s the only civilized place to live. In fact, she’s not even sure that old story about humanity being from Earth isn’t more than a fairy tale– that ancient planet is SO inhospitable to humans with its full 1G of gravity. Still, she really wants to see Earth– one would have to if one were going to be a daring and famous captain of a starship, wouldn’t one? When the opportunity arises for her and her favorite uncle… and her least favorite brother… to take a luxury cruise to Earth, she grabs it, and has the adventure of her lifetime… not realizing just how short her lifetime might be.

What has always impressed me with Heinlein’s writing is that he rarely dated his technology. He never described how a doohickey worked, only that it rendered the proper effect: “The door dilated.” In his time, they had not yet conceived of handheld computers, let alone mobile telephones, so some things that we take for granted he had to work around, but for the most part the “science” of his science fiction holds up, making it a pleasure to read 50 years after it was written. (I did have to look up what a “slide rule” was the first time I read one of his books, though.)

As with many of Heinlein’s other books, familiar archetypes abound in Podkayne of Mars, just with new names. Important characters are brilliant and beautiful. Women know how to use their beauty and smarts to their best advantage (Heinlein had a brand of feminism I kinda dig), and the men like to make things, ogle women, and shoot things…in that order. Although our heroine is extremely intelligent, she mostly gets what she wants by flirting shamelessly with the “more powerful” men around her. And she does get just about everything she wants, until she finds out that her pleasure trip actually has a much more serious, even sinister, undertone.

Oddly enough, if the original publisher had left well enough alone, that’s all I would have thought of this book– a nice, little adventure story. However, times being what they were, the original publisher, Putnam (1963), insisted that Heinlein change the ending (I won’t say how; read it yourself), and it opened up an insight into Heinlein’s message behind the story. He softened the bit they were most concerned about, and in the process left a scathing commentary on absentee parenting. As I read the two endings that Baen (1983) provided, I was struck by how different they were, not because of who lived and who died, but because in the one accepted and published, he was so much more vocal and angry than in the ending that had been rejected, which left one to draw his own conclusions about why things happened as they did. Sometimes censorship can bite you in the bum, I guess.

So. If you are ready to blast off into a future time where the men are men and the women are shameless, strap on your zero-G harness to see where future-captain Podkayne of Mars and her magnificent imagination can go.

5/5 Whatzits for girls who are sassy AND classy, and beautiful science fiction that mostly holds up.


About Miriam

I write for pleasure. I read for sanity. I have lots of opinions, and I'll share them with you... but only if I like you.

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8 thoughts on “Robert A. Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars

  • Morticia

    Was this your favorite Heinlein so far? I have to say, I’ve only read “Starship Troopers.” I liked it, so maybe this is a second read? What do you think of the different covers for the books over the years? Does it appeal to the different demographics they’re trying to get to? One cover looks like it’s geared for kids. The one with your review, makes me think of Patricia Briggs’ books, or C.E. Murphy. What do you think? Huh? Huh? *Poke Poke Poke*

    • Miriam
      Miriam Post author

      Actually, no. Of his earlier, action-oriented work, I like The Puppet Masters the best. Of his later, more sensual work, my favs are I Will Fear No Evil, Stranger in A Strange Land, and all of his Lazarus Long stuff. :) Friday is in there, somewhere, too. I guess I’ve got a dirty, old man hanging out in my head, just like in I Will Fear No Evil. :)

      As for the covers, that requires more typing than I am capable of on a phone. LOL! Gonna have to get back to you on that.

      • Morticia

        Dirty old man inside? *snicker* you said this, not me! bwah hah hah!
        Y’know, for a sci-fi movie buff, I have read remarkably little Sci-Fi. I’ve always been a fantasy reader, but I like the Sci-Fi romance. I guess I’ve always assumed since so much was written by men, that the female characters would be one dimensional. Not like every male Sci-Fi author has a Hemingway-like disdain for women, but in many stories they come across as kinda lame. I wanted some Sci-Fi written by women, especially Sci-Fi Romance. Predictable, me.
        That’s why I was so happy to see Linnea Sinclair writing. I remember being in a workshop she ran. She RAWKS!

        And how cool is is that this is now possible:
        Sci-Fi Romance
        Haven’t read this, but now I’m gonna!

        Sci-Fi Romance Erotic is now a category on Amazon!

        • Miriam
          Miriam Post author

          Honestly, Heinlein’s portrayal of women was a significant influence on me, when I started reading his work in Jr High. Thinking on it, I would call RAH a feminist in action and word, but not in name. I think he’s one if those fellows who wouldn’t need feminism, because women are already so awesome, why do they need a movement to prove it to morons?

          I might recommend, specifically to you, The Number of the Beast, which is about four scientist/adventurers who find a way to travel into the realms of other books. Not only do you get a strong sampling of his style and characters, not to mention his implied sensuality, but you can see what writings (I’m guessing) influenced him. It gets a little bit family reuniony at the end, so I’m not sure you’d get those references, but it’s so much fun to get there.

      • La Magia Magick
        La Magia Magick

        I think I like the one with the bodysuit. Nice update to the story. Ties her in with the new heroines in young adult novels: Katniss, Tris. What do you think?

        • Miriam
          Miriam Post author

          I tend not to notice covers for books over 20 years old, because they keep changing. If it was like album covers where the art is synonymous with the music, it would be different, I think. Nowadays, they just design new covers every year or so to attract different audiences. E.g. the youth of today would NEVER look at a cover designed in 1963. Or look at how the Harry Potter series had a different cover at the same time for the adult readers than for the YA crowd.


          • Morticia

            I think it’s great that it’s still in print. There are so many authors in limbo even 7 years down the line,whose work is out of pint and may be trying to get it re-issued via electronic format. It’s amazing that “Podkyne of Mars” has made it through so many years and reprints.
            I like the new cover, vis-à-vis they saucy pose and the Martian landscape we see on the cover.
            I’ll read it and then tell you more!