The Book: “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum. Story originally published in 1934 by Wonder Stories. Read in the anthology Where Do We Go from Here? edited by Isaac Asimov published by Fawcett Crest in 1972.
The Setting: Mars
The Story: One of the first men on Mars crashes his flier and attempts to walk back to base. He’s joined by an intelligent bird like creature and encounters many other strange beasts on his way back. Like the Odyssey!
The Science: The science part is almost cheating. This book includes comments by Asimov on the science of each story, as well as discussion questions.
- Martian Life: Hey, how about that? Aliens who are not only are weird looking, but who have alien brains and codes of conduct as well! There’s Tweel, the bird creature who learns to communicate with the human protagonist. There’s plant life that moves about on tiny legs. There’s the silicon based pyramid-monster who spits out bricks and builds pyramids around himself. There’s the dream-beast that lures its victims by mining their deepest desires and having them come to it. Then there are the cart-pushing drum-barrel creatures who does something in a deep mine and menace the man and the bird. Asimov indicates that silicon based life is not likely, and I’ll take his word on that. For now.
- First Men on Mars: I have to applaud Weinbaum for envisioning the first major trip to Mars as a mulit-national endeavor. There are two Americans, one French person, and a Russian. It didn’t quite work that way in the space race a couple decades later.
The Reaction: The story is not exactly compelling. One guy tells three other guys (with some pretty bad dialogue) about his Martian adventure. But it definitely gets points for originality when it comes to creature imagining and inter-species communication efforts. Weinbaum’s Mars is a much more biologically complex world than Burroughs’.
The Cover: A generalized science fiction anthology cover with what may be planets or molecules or whatever. But mostly, ASIMOV.
Next Up: Swords of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.