How to Mars
by David Ebenbach
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Pub Date 25 May 2021 | Archive Date 08 Jun 2021
*A Nerd Daily Fantasy & Sci Fi Book to Look Out For
*A Hollywood Reporter What to Watch, Play, and Read in 2021
What happens when your dream mission to Mars is a reality television nightmare? This debut science-fiction romp with heart that follows the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, with a dash of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Mythbusters.
For the six lucky scientists selected by the Destination Mars! corporation, a one-way ticket to Mars—in exchange for a lifetime of research—was an absolute no-brainer. The incredible opportunity was clearly worth even the most absurdly tedious screening process. Perhaps worth following the strange protocols in a nonsensical handbook written by an eccentric billionaire. Possibly even worth their constant surveillance, the video of which is carefully edited into a ratings-bonanza back on Earth.
But it turns out that after a while even scientists can get bored of science. Tempers begin to fray; unsanctioned affairs blossom. When perfectly good equipment begins to fail, the Marsonauts are faced with a possibility that their training just cannot explain.
Irreverent, poignant, and perfectly weird, David Ebenbach’s debut science-fiction outing, like a mission to Mars, is an incredible trip you will never forget.
A Note From the Publisher
A Nerd Daily Fantasy & Sci Fi Book to Look Out For
A Hollywood Reporter What to Watch, Play, and Read in 2021
“David Ebenbach’s new novel wittily dismantles the classic space adventure story. . . . How to Mars is equal parts an absurdist cautionary tale and a warm-hearted exploration of those things, good, bad and indifferent, that make us human.”
—Emily Mitchell, author of Viral Stories
“All the old pleasures of SF come back, together with a surefooted grasp of character, an engagingly wry sense of humor, and a unique take on the new wedding of serious space engineering, social media, reality TV and business hype. If [Elon] Musk were a poet, this is how he would sound?”
—Frederick Turner, author of Genesis
“How to Mars is funny, poignant, and a perfect example of how not to settle Mars.”
"Ebenbach (Miss Portland) imagines the first pregnancy on Mars in this gentle, domestic sci-fi novel of a reality show gone interplanetary. Two years into the filming of reality show Destination Mars! the cast have settled into a quotidian routine on the Red Planet, leading to declining ratings and a production shutdown. Jenny, an astrophysicist, maintains the team’s telescope, and Josh, a psychologist, works to keep things running smoothly in the Destination Mars! base camp. Ignoring the constantly repeated prohibitions against intercourse (“Even Elton John thinks it’s a bad idea,” warns the Destination Mars! handbook ), the pair have sex—repeatedly—and despite their prophylactic precautions, soon Jenny is expecting the first child born off Earth. The challenge of a developing life adds both stress and excitement to a base grown weary of Mars and discouraged with searching for alien life. It also brings the attention of some Mars inhabitants who, like Stefan, the team engineer, fear the additional chaos that a bawling baby will bring to the quiet planet. Ebenbach keeps an intimate focus on Jenny’s pregnancy while portraying the technical details of base living through a satiric lens that sees the relentless deliveries of useless towels and the revival of freeze-dried goldfish. The result is funny, fresh, and winsome."
“5/5 Stars. Strap in and get ready to blast off on one wild ride. Very much recommended.”
“Among scenes that find the six establishing mundane Martian routines come riotous clips from the Destination Mars! handbook, flashbacks to the torturous tests that Destination Mars! subjected its applicants to, and notes from the field (both the Martian landscape, and the six’s internal topographies). The combination is irresistible fun. Through its heartbreaks and surprises, How to Mars is an interplanetary delight.”
“Ebenbach explores science fiction for the first time in this clever novel focused on a one-way trip to the red planet. Financed by an eccentric billionaire with funding via reality television, six scientists emerge from a ‘Survivors’ gauntlet of seemingly meaningless tests. After two years on Mars, the reality series has been cancelled and the science-ing has been reduced to the humdrum. The engineer from Denmark has alienated himself by expressing his right to do whatever he wants, while the psychologist and astronomer find themselves revealed as breakers of the one hard rule laid down by the managers of the project: no sex. Vignettes of mundane concerns are interspersed with excerpts from the unofficial Destination Mars! handbook by the organization’s founder. The poignancy of the impossible pregnancy is the Bradbury touch, the reality show framework carries fingerprints of Douglas Adams, and the handbook provides a Vonnegut-esque struggle with the paradoxes of the human condition. How to Mars is Andy Weir’s The Martian (2014) infused with poetry in a superbly concise package.”
“Two years after having been chosen to receive one-way tickets to Mars for a lifetime of research—all while living under constant surveillance for TV—six scientists are finding life undeniably monotonous, especially since their show was canceled because of low ratings. ‘After a while even scientists can get bored of science. Especially here. Mars, I can tell you, is pretty much rocks, rocks, rocks,’ according to Josh, a psychologist. But when Jenny, the astrophysicist, realizes she’s pregnant after having begun a romantic relationship with Josh—although the Destination Mars! Handbook repeatedly stresses that sex is strictly forbidden—the small community must come together to resolve the looming issues associated with welcoming a newborn into their cramped habitat. Not surprisingly, once the TV producers are made aware of Jenny’s pregnancy, the show is brought back and ratings soar. Told from the perspectives of various characters—even ethereal Martian life-forms that refer to themselves as the Patterns—and complemented with excerpts from the Destination Mars! handbook and Jenny’s humorous research notes, the story has a strong sense of whimsy, but Ebenbach also creates depth by exploring issues like engineer Stefan’s feelings of estrangement and violence and Jenny’s guilt over her sister’s suicide years earlier. A poignant examination of what it means to be human.”
—She Treads Softly
*Review copy mailings to leading newspaper, magazine, and fiction reviewers, and specialty science fiction- and fantasy-oriented outlets including SciFi.com, io9, and Locus
*Digital ARCs available via NetGalley, Edelweiss, and Goodreads; additional print available upon request
*Online promotional rollout to include blog tour, interviews, radio, and podcasts
*Social media push by the author and publisher via Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Goodreads
*Author appearances at bookstores, trade shows, genre-themed conventions, and virtual events TBD
Average rating from 72 members
This book was a combination of Hitchhiker's guide, scientific journals and narrative, which at first sounds richly bizarre, but in the end, actually works. It was a compelling read because it was not the same as every other SF story. Well done!
Zany Space Story. The best way to describe this book, really, is that if you like Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy - a perennial favorite among the geek set for decades now that has in many cases transcended into pop culture - ... you're probably going to like this one too. There are quite a bit of similarities, given the hilarious and offbeat humor and even the "guidebook" element of the story. (Though unlike the Adams epic, this one actually includes at least parts of the guide in the story.) As others have noted, the fact that this was spurred many years ago by a (now defunct) Mars colonization effort that had the same general premise is, quite frankly, even more amusing. If you're looking to see what all the fuss over Hitchhiker is about but you're not willing to commit to something of quite that length, try this one. At roughly 250 pages, it is a short-average length and thus a good primer for that type of humor and creativity. If you're looking for a more serious/ Hard Science Fiction ala Andy Weir's take on The Martian... this isn't that. So strap in and get ready to blast off on one wild ride. Very much recommended.
How to Mars by David Ebenbach is a highly recommended amusing science fiction tale about an unexpected pregnancy among the scientists on a reality TV show set on Mars.
After an arduous screening process, six scientists were selected for a one-way ticket to Mars where they would conduct research for the reality TV show following them. The handbook of the Destination Mars! corporation clearly stated repeatedly that intercourse between contestants is prohibited and pregnancy is not allowed. Nonetheless, Jenny, an astrophysicist, and Josh, a psychologist, have a romantic relationship and Jenny discovers she is pregnant. The other scientists on the team, Stefan, Roger, Nicole and Trixie, have various responses as Jenny's pregnancy progresses and odd things begin to occur on the base. The reality TV show, which was cancelled due to low ratings, has started up again with the pregnancy and ratings are high.
The narrative is told through the point of view of Josh, Stephan (the engineer), the Patterns (ethereal life on Mars), Jenny's notes, and through excerpts from the Destination Mars! handbook. Parts of the novel have an absurd, lightheartedness that will bring to mind The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, especially the abundance of towels sent to the base. Other parts are thought provoking and poignant as six very different scientists are living together with no return trip to Earth planned. As with any group, there are conflicts, disagreements, and stress, but the group is also a family. Sure, they are a dysfunctional family, but they are working together doing the best they can.
The plot is really about the characters and their interaction, because Mars is just rocks, rocks, and more rocks. One of the heated discussions is the question if Mars orange or red. The characters are interesting personalities and we learn more personal facts about Josh, Jenny, and Stephan, as the plot follows Jenny's pregnancy and how it affects life on Mars - all life on Mars. This is an interesting, fun take on the establishment of a base on Mars and the interaction of the inhabitants.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Tachyon Publications in exchange for my honest opinion.
The review will be submitted for publication on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
I am a huge fan of Mars mission fiction, I think. I loved a few shows I watched about “first humans on Mars”, and I found How To Mars utterly delightful, so Mars wins, I guess. In this particular voyage to Mars, we meet the gang when they’ve already been on Mars for a second, which was a fun change of pace. These particular Martians have signed up for a one-way trip, none of them having any particular desire to return to Earth. But as you can imagine, life in a very small bubble with just a few other people would have a tendency to have some rocky moments.
And when one of the group members becomes unexpectedly pregnant, things definitely will get shaken up! It’s a very humorous and engaging story. I loved the characters, and how much they came to care for one another, despite their differences. I also enjoyed the thought-provoking moments, the ones where I questioned myself, how would I handle any of these scenarios? Could I ever actually get on a one-way trip to Mars? Probably not, but as the story unfurls, you’ll see that each Martian has their own reasons.
There are also exciting moments of Mars adventure, even though it is absolutely more of a character driven book. The real highlight of the book for me was more how the group handled these various potential catastrophes- and how the Earth folks reacted as well. There are also excerpts from the handbook that the company who sent the team wrote- and frankly, they were hilarious and a quite welcome addition!
Bottom Line: A humorous yet heartfelt look at Martian pioneers, How to Mars won me over with its empathetic characters and entertaining storytelling.
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.
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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