Category: Young Adult, ages 10-14 years
159 Pages, 52 Chapters
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level = 6.83
Flesch Reading Ease Score = 71.71
Sample from Martian Runaway...
I've never met my father. He and my mom were never married, and they didn't live together once I was born. Mom has never spoken of him to me voluntarily, and the few questions I warily asked when I was younger she answered with short, steely cold answers. It was only by piecing together bits of overheard conversations and coaxing some information out of Grandma DeLine that I learned what little I knew of him.
His name is Mitchell Parks, and he lives and works on Mars. I once used my computer to learn more about him, which wasn’t much. He has some kind of job with the Martian Transport Authority, or MTA, whatever that is. He's not dead though, that much I know. Mars’ birth and death records are public access, and that was easy enough to check out. I only have one picture of him, from his MTA record. My dad is average height I guess, average build. His face in the picture looks relaxed and happy, with a slight five o’clock shadow darkening his jaw line. He wears his hair cropped so it’s a bit spiky, kind of like mine no matter how I comb it. And we have the same eyes. I saved the photo to my hard drive and have glanced at it occasionally.
So, here's the little I know: Mom obviously doesn't care for my father; they were never married, which is why I have my mother’s last name, not his; he left and went to Mars the year after I was born; and he has a job there, but I'm not sure exactly what he does.
I contemplate all this again as I sit in my bedroom at home after school bouncing a tennis ball off the wall of my room. A room that won't be mine in a few days.
When I was a little kid I didn’t think much about not having a dad around. I guess since I didn’t know any different it wasn’t a big deal. Mom never married anybody, so I didn't even have a step-dad in my life. From listening to some of the other kids at school talk, that could either be a good thing or a bad thing. Some kids have a great step-dad or step-mom who cares about them. But some other kid's seem to really hate having to live with someone who is a stranger, trying to be their friend, but also their parent by marriage. I guess for me, I've sometimes wished some guy was around who would take me fishing or play baseball with me, and at other times I’m glad that I don't have to deal with a dude who might be sweet with my mom but a real creep when it's just him and me.
On my computer screen I bring up the one photo I have of my dad and study it again. I'll admit that it’s kind of bothered me not knowing more about him. I’ve thought about trying to contact him, send him an email or vid message. But what would I say? All I had was questions. Did he know about me? Didn’t he want a son? Why did he leave me? Is he a criminal? Is he just not dad material?
I wonder now what he’d do if I just showed up on his Martian doorstep? The more I think about my dad, and about Mars, the more that seed of an idea that started in school today starts to make more sense.
I should go find my father. He may not want me, but at least I can say I met him, saw him with my own eyes, and introduced myself.
I don't figure my mother will miss me much, what with her job keeping her so busy. And now that she’s moving, she might even like the fact that I'm not a burden on the whole process. I try and convince myself of this, even though I know she’s going to be worried, not to mention furious with me. She'll be mad because I left on my own, away from her control. Maybe she'll be more upset because I went to meet my dad. But in the end I’m sure this’ll be a good thing for her, and for me.
Decision made. Now the hard part.
My fingers fly across my computer keyboard as I start to figure out how exactly to pull off traveling to Mars all on my own. My screen is soon filled with web-windows showing page after page of information on the domed cities of Mars, the space ships that travel between Earth and Mars, recommended items to pack, medical information on space flight, what astronaut ice-cream is really made of, and if they have little green men or dogs on Mars. I'd like to meet a little green man, and I'd really like to have a dog!
Um, I guess I get a little distracted sometimes.
Okay, the soonest Mars rocket launch is next Wednesday, as luck would have it, the day before Mom is moving us to London. I figure buying a ticket to Mars should not be a problem. Mom set up my electronic money account a few years ago where she deposits my allowance. She lets me use this account to buy stuff on-line, or use my debit card at stores and stuff. But I soon discover that a ticket to Mars is expensive, way more money than I have in my allowance.
The next hurdle is figuring out if a twelve-year-old boy traveling alone is going to stick out like a kid with last year’s game system on the first day of school. I know the airlines allow kids to travel alone, one responsible adult making sure they get on the plane, the airline staff making sure the kid gets transferred between the correct planes, and then some final responsible adult there at the end to pick the kid up. I spend some time researching the Earth/Mars spaceline to see if they have a similar program, but I can't find anything.
I do learn that tourism to Mars is a rare thing. Most of the people traveling there are scientists, business people, and families moving there permanently. Somehow I've got to blend in, or have a really convincing story about why no adult is traveling with me.
Then there’s the fact that the rocket launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the Space Coast, which is over a thousand miles from New York. The first thousand miles in a thirty-six million mile journey.
Traveling to Mars is going to be trickier than I thought.
Ever dream of exploring Mars?
Travel along as one boy's curiosity about his long lost father takes him on an adventure filled trek to the beautiful domed cities and dangerous lands of the Red Planet.
"Science fiction adventures for earthbound readers."
Available in paperback & for Kindle
Written in first person narrative, this boyhood science fiction adventure story centers on twelve-year-old West DeLine, the only child of a career focused and emotionally distant mother. When his mom's job forces them to once again move to a new city, the boy realizes it will mean more lost friends and starting over at yet another new school. Frustrated and lonely in his empty life, he decides to run away and find the father he's never known. The fact that his dad happens to live on the planet Mars doesn't deter the over-confident adolescent.
Stealing aboard a Mars bound rocket West soon finds himself in a fantastical glass domed city, where he's confronted by the similar yet often different realities of living on the Red Planet. Through haphazard ingenuity he eventually manages to locate his father. The reunion proves heartwarming yet difficult, father and son both struggling with long repressed emotions as they try to bridge the years of separation between them.
Then an emergency in another domed city prompts father and son to work together and mount a relief mission, rushing supplies across the stark alien world in a gigantic cargo truck. Along the way, the challenges of Mars' vast, inspiring, and often dangerous landscape provides an unexpected path for the boy's own self-discovery.
from author Robert E. Birnschein
- Ray Schrab
With a writing style that is crisp and fast, this book is a quick, easy and very entertaining read. The focus is on the human story, but that story is placed in a fascinating place in the "near distant" future. The science and technology involved in living on Mars is touched on in a matter-of-fact way that makes us feel that, yes, that is going to happen. It's just a matter of time. There is a feeling of drama and suspense throughout the book as the young hero faces both physical and emotional challenges. Indeed, his emotions trigger actions that put his very life in danger.
This is a well written story especially for pre-teens to teens but is enjoyable from an adult's perspective too. It has adventure and heart!
- J. Deshima
Took me back to the 1960's and various stories and adventures written then. The story can also relate to many younger people of today who come from one parent families, who also experience a "retreat " into the electronic world of computer games etc. What is great is the growth and the development of character by the 12 year old West DeLine when facing adversity. Enjoyable and recommended.
Copyright Robert E. Birnschein. All rights reserved.