Cover Image: How to Mars

How to Mars

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"How to Mars" by David Ebenbach is a quirky, imaginative foray into interplanetary colonization. Ebenbach seamlessly blends humor with the gravitas of space exploration, presenting a tale of Mars settlers navigating both the challenges of an alien environment and their own interpersonal dynamics. Infused with creative guidelines and observations, the narrative offers a fresh take on the classic Mars mission trope. A delightful, thought-provoking exploration of humanity's interstellar ambitions. Highly entertaining.
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How to Mars has really cool concept but the execution fell a bit short for me. It was enjoyable overall though and I will probably read more by the author.
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I appreciate the publisher allowing me to read this book. I found this book incredibly interesting the author really kept me hooked until the end. very well written I highly recommend.
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How To Mars brings to the world of space exploration a blend of day-to-day realism, smart humor, and poignancy. 

Focused on the small crew of space station Home Sweet, and set within the peculiar parameters of our contemporary media landscape, the novel puts us in a unique world with compelling characters. And it took me through a stunning range of scenes where I found myself wondering, ‘How would I react?’ and laughing. I couldn’t put it down.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
The premise of the book drew me in but once I started reading it, I just couldn’t get into it at all.
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Like other reviewers, I felt like like How to Mars had a good premise but the execution could have been a lot better. It wasn't that the writing lacked, it's that nothing really happened. Well, I mean there was the pregnancy, but that happened "off-stage" and then there was a lot of thinking about and reaction to that, as opposed to plot movement.

I had trouble with boredom right from the beginning, despite the amusing corporate handbook interludes. It seems like there could have been a lot more potential for plot movement if the author had taken more advantage of the hostile environment of Mars, like maybe a complication of the pregnancy making them need to go out and find a certain rare mineral to make a medicine that would help Jenny recover, or a storm necessitating that they move their habitat when she's past half-term.

This book didn't fit my tastes but would definitely appeal to fans of A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Netgalley generously gave a copy of the book to review in exchange for this honest review.
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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2022 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="">
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It’s been a while since I’d read anything at all—never mind with the intention of reviewing—so I will admit that I didn’t always have my critical-thinking hat on reading this one. But I think even despite that, I can promise that this book didn’t really deliver what I was promising. The tag line was: What happens when your dream mission to Mars is a reality television nightmare? And the reality television part was barely mentioned at all. We had maybe one chapter on the selection process for casting these people more than halfway through the story—and it was a pretty mundane scene about digging up a fossil—and when the book starts, they’ve already been on Mars for two years and the reality show has more or less been cancelled, so it doesn’t really affect the plot at all. Without spoiling anything, the main plotline is a pretty interesting thing to be thinking about in term of it taking place on Mars, but I’m not sure I would have been drawn to this book if I knew that was the central point. I don’t think this was marketed to the right people.

About a third of the novel is a manifesto, of sorts, of this unnamed founder of Destination Mars! and his unofficial guide that was given to the astronauts—sorry, Marsonauts—but it seems to me that it’s mostly the ramblings of a person with a lot of money who liked the idea of sending these people up to space forever but without really thinking about what he was realistically asking of them. And it repeated itself fairly often.

I did enjoy the cast of characters that were stranded together on Mars, but I wished we would have learned a little bit more about them. I feel like I knew a bit about three of the six, but no one in-depth and some barely at all. Of course, it’s difficult to live with the same six people for the rest of your life, on a planet where you can’t really escape without planning it out since you can’t breathe the air—but the conflict between them seemed pretty surface level. And I will admit that after getting as far as I did in the story, I was happy with how it wrapped up in the end—it was pretty satisfying—so at least there’s that.

I’m sure there are people out there who will love this story—readers who like stories about everyday people doing everyday things (but in space), will probably appreciate it. But if you’re looking for Big Brother on Mars… this isn’t the book for you.

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This is a story about how to be a Martian for dummies.

There were elements of this that were hilarious, and elements of it that were wince inducing because of the implications of the human element of any experiment.    The somewhat manualized format is a novel idea, and I found it to be well executed; however, I think it kept me from feeling fully connected to the characters.  If they ever make a reality tv show about the first group to colonize Mars- I imagine it will somewhat resemble this, and hopefully be just as entertaining.

Thank you so much Netgalley & Tachyon Publications for the eArc!
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This book tried very hard to be something like; I'm just not sure what it wanted to be like. 

A group of six scientists, three women, three men, won seats on a one way trip to Mars. They'll be the heroes of a new reality TV show. And it is just as boring as it sounds. 

The book tried to be funny, but it wasn't. The story was mainly about pregnancy and childbirth on Mars. 

I only gave this 2 stars, because the last few chapters show what the novel could have been like.
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I had a hard time getting into this book. The humor was very dry and not entirely what I expected. It wasn't as sci-fi as I had hoped either. I'm sure there is a great audience for this type of book, and there wasn't anything poor or wrong with the writing. But unfortunately it just wasn't for me.
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I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A really interesting idea for a story and told in a very dry and witty way. But I felt it concentrated on two characters way to much. And the in-between chapters of the Mars handbook were just a waste. I get that they were supposed to be funny interludes, but...well they were interludes. Otherwise an enjoyable book.
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This novel is set on a realistic, near future Mars where a scientific expedition funded by a reality tv show has sent the first six humans to live there, knowing that it will be a one way only mission. When the book begins, it’s been two years since they have arrived and the show has been cancelled a while back due to loss of interest by the viewing public, but the show gets revived when a pregnancy that not only was banned but shouldn’t have been possible occurs. Interspersed with narrative from several viewpoints are reports, and excerpts from the very long and strange handbook written for the mission by the company funding it.

The author described this in the afterword as a collection of linked short stories, but it felt like a novel to me - a quirky, lovely little science fiction novel that really is more about being human. Because despite the setting, it’s really more about what drove the characters to apply to leave Earth forever in the first place, and how being there has changed them. It’s quietly funny and a touch satirical with the reality tv aspect, but also touches on real emotions and even made me cry at the end.
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I’m not very good at SF humor so while I appreciate the absurdity of this book, the humor ran thin pretty quickly. I don't watch reality TV so I don't know all the conventions of the genre but basically here we have too few people crammed together for the rest of their lives on Mars operating under an arbitrary system of rules that no one would normally accept - like no sex ever. The operations manual for the Martian outpost is bizarre and unhelpful, and the pre-departure training seems to have been inadequate. Was there any psych profiling and matching at all?

If you like humorous fiction then you will probably like this book. If not, give it a miss.
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This science fiction novel set on Mars alternates between the story if the first six people selected to live on the Red Planet and their handbook. The first, most important rule of the Destination Mars! handbook: Never, ever have sex. This tongue-in-cheek novel opens with Jenny, one of the first people on Mars announcing that she's pregnant. What follows is an exploration of humanity, with all the sarcastic, dry humor you could hope for. However, the halting plot, at times obnoxious and frustrating characters, and the eventually distracting handbook excerpts all detract from the books promising premise. Fans of both The Martian and Mystery Science Theater 3000 may be able to overlook the flaws enough to enjoy How to Mars.
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This book might be better for readers who generally avoid sci-fi. 

Based on the description, I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, those expectations were not met. Much less humor than expected, and what was present was pretty dry/subtle. As a fan of books like Andy Weir's 'The Martian', I was generally just annoyed and/or frustrated by the lack of science and it's (presumed) importance for a settlement on Mars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This was an excellent book! If hard science scares you, don’t worry about it. The kind of science included here should be easily managed and come as second nature to most of us at this point. I really liked all the aspects of human nature and life this book brought up...nationality, politics, religion, survival, our relationship with technology, relationships with each other, internal needs and desires. Our place in the universe, existence of alien life far different from our own. 

If you go in EXPECTING hard science, only being entertained by hard science, only being able to enjoy a thoroughly laid out explanation of just what and how the alien life on Mars exists and is able sort of communicate with humans, or a technical explanation for every single second of humans LIVING on Mars...tamper down those expectations. Instead, look at this as an enjoyable journey into what would happen if a VERY less-than-science group got together and sent some people to another planet. 

Whatever your worries about this book, THROW THEM OUT. This is a fantastic, entertaining read. There's a little bit of everything for every earthling. And no doubt, future martians.
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In David Ebenbach’s How to Mars, humans have made it to Mars, but not via the usual major
government initiative. Instead, a group of six was sent as a reality TV show produced by Destination
Mars, a corporation whose owner is “pretty eccentric.” Sadly, Mars turned out to be kind of dull (lots of
rocks, no life, monotone color) and as the six scientists grew bored so did the audience, leading to the
show’s cancellation after just one year. The novel though kicks off with s revelation sure to jump start
ratings: despite a prohibition on sex, one of the group (Jenny) is pregnant. It’s a great premise, rich with
potential for tension, drama, and an exploration of what it means to be human, especially with the added
complication of Martian life, but unfortunately the novel doesn’t fully mine that potential, leaving it less
than the sum of its parts.
  Structurally, the novel is told via chapters that read as linked stories (an author’s afterword explains the
genesis of the idea and the linked story form) from different POVs, intermittently interrupted by excerpts
from the relatively absurdist corporate manual. The chapter stories move back and forth in time, so we
follow Jenny’s pregnancy and its impact, as well as see some of the application process as well as the
training. The flashbacks also fill in the motivations for why some of the characters, particularly Jenny, the
father Josh, and Stefan, the surly misanthrope of the group and the sole member who seems upset by the
  The structure works well, allowing for the slow revelation of one of the burning questionss reader will
have — why would someone sign up for a one-way trip to Mars, let alone with five strangers? The
interruptions of the present time narrative also create some nice tension via Stefan’s increasing
anger/desire for “peace” as well as through the formless Martians, who are split on these noisy, chaotic
newcomers, with some wanting to study them and others wanting to get rid of them. As for the manual
chapters, they’re a mostly successful mix of poignant whimsy (or whimsical poignancy) with chapters
like “What You Can’t Do” snd “what You Can’t Bring With You”, as in this excerpt:

Nor will you be bringing the neighborhood you grew up in, or the real innocence yo had then, the large
experience you have whenever you stand at the edge of a large body of water . . . And of course those
things are already in some sense gone anyway

  Though it adds some welcome humor as well as broadens the core themes behind the more personal story,
it did feel as if the manual overstayed its welcome a bit by the end, a case perhaps where less would have
been more.
  Somewhat similarly, I quite liked the early chapters from the Martian POV, both their odd nature and the
way they struggle with the impact of these new creatures not only on their home but on their way of
thinking and being. But this storyline went down too predictable a path before seeming to peter out and
overall felt a bit like an unnecessary means of emphasizing the novel’s themes, a plot thread that ended
up in a sort of no person’s land where it needed to either be expanded/deepened or cut (I could see either
option working out).
  The main plot meanwhile was a bit too simple in terms of the dynamics at play. As noted, Stefan is the
only one who shows any negative response to the impending birth and this, along with his desire,
expressed both in conversation and via interior monologue, to “do what he wants” makes him a sort of
childish and overly simplistic antagonist. Josh, the “psychologist” of the group believes there is “more to
Stefan,” but we’re never really given any reason for why he thinks so, which is sort of on the mark with
regard to how he performs any of his duties (something that holds true for all of the scientists, who are pretty poor examples of their chosen fields). You would think there would be at least some voiced
tension, anger, concern over Josh and Jenny’s flouting of the rules, their selfish behavior that ends with a
major, and possibly life threatening disruption. But there’s none of that. The characters are pretty much
handed a one-track response and that’s all we see: Trixie goes into obsessive doctor mode combined with
forced Aussie cheer, Roger makes baby things, Stefan gets more surly, and Nicole tries to create the
family she never had. The situation cries out for a complex stew of interpersonal dynamics that we never
really get unfortunately. The backstories somewhat similarly skate along the surface. Loss and grief
would have been easy guesses for why someone signs up for the one-way trip, and the tragedies by the
nature have an emotional i o act, but again, one that feels like it could have been stronger had more been
done with it.
  The same can be said about the theme of family— both literal and in the form of found family. I like the
point and again it comes with some inherent poignancy and emotionality, but it’s a bit too bluntly
presented for my preferences, and the ending, meant to drive the theme home, feels rushed as well as feels
like it wraps it up all too neatly and easily (which makes the superfluous epilogue even more so).
How to Mars is one of those light summer reads that flows along smoothly and offers up some chuckles,
some ideas to chew on, some poignant moments, but neither the plot nor the characters are particularly
compelling, nor will the novel linger long I’m thinking. Which is too bad because the potential was
definitely there.
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Well, I think that this story has a blurb that is a little misleading. This story is not really about a reality show, as the show has already been cancelled when we start the book. This is really about pregnancy and how it differs on Earth vs Mars. I didn't really mind that the show had already been cancelled and that the people had already settled into their mundane lives on Mars. I thought the pregnancy added something new and interesting for the characters. I did find them all to be a bit bland, and the writing was really repetitive. The same thing would be said twice, over and over, and I really didn't enjoy it. At first, I thought maybe it was just one character, but everyone does it, so it was a writing choice, and I found it really distracting.
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If you like reality TV shows and want to dabble in the world of science fiction, then maybe this book is for you. The cover art is pretty awesome though!
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