The Mars House

A Novel

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Pub Date 19 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024
Bloomsbury USA, Bloomsbury Publishing

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Description

A compulsively readable queer sci-fi novel about a marriage of convenience between a Mars politician and an Earth refugee.

In the wake of an environmental catastrophe, January, once a principal in London's Royal Ballet, has become a refugee in Tharsis, the terraformed colony on Mars. There, January's life is dictated by his status as an Earthstronger-a person whose body is not adjusted to lower gravity and so poses a danger to those born on, or naturalized to, Mars. January's job choices, housing, and even transportation are dictated by this second-class status, and now a xenophobic politician named Aubrey Gale is running on a platform that would make it all worse: Gale wants all Earthstrongers to naturalize, a process that is always disabling and sometimes deadly.

When Gale chooses January for an on-the-spot press junket interview that goes horribly awry, January's life is thrown into chaos, but Gale's political fortunes are damaged, too. Gale proposes a solution to both their problems: a five year made-for-the-press marriage that would secure January's future without naturalization and ensure Gale's political success. But when January accepts the offer, he discovers that Gale is not at all like they appear in the press. They're kind, compassionate, and much more difficult to hate than January would prefer. As their romantic relationship develops, the political situation worsens, and January discovers Gale has an enemy, someone willing to destroy all of Tharsis to make them pay-and January may be the only person standing in the way.

Un-put-downably immersive and utterly timely, Natasha Pulley's new novel is a gripping story about privilege, strength, and life across class divisions, perfect for readers of Sarah Gailey and Tamsyn Muir.

A compulsively readable queer sci-fi novel about a marriage of convenience between a Mars politician and an Earth refugee.

In the wake of an environmental catastrophe, January, once a principal in...


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ISBN 9781639732333
PRICE $32.99 (USD)
PAGES 432

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Average rating from 46 members


Featured Reviews

Natasha Pulley's "The Mars House" is a remarkable and compelling queer science fiction novel that ventures into uncharted territories. This gripping story unfolds on the terraformed colony of Tharsis on Mars, in the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe, and it explores themes of privilege, class, and the complexities of love in the face of adversity.

The novel introduces us to January, a once-prominent dancer from London's Royal Ballet who is now an Earthstronger, a person unadjusted to the lower gravity on Mars. Pulley skillfully navigates January's life, highlighting how his status as an Earthstronger restricts his choices, freedom, and rights. When a xenophobic politician, Aubrey Gale, proposes a new policy that threatens Earthstrongers even further, January's life takes a sudden twist.

The book masterfully examines the consequences of their chance encounter when Gale selects January for an impromptu press interview. What unfolds is a marriage of convenience that is both a political strategy for Gale and a lifeline for January. The dynamic between them is complicated, nuanced, and emotionally rich. Pulley delves into the depths of their relationship, revealing layers of vulnerability and humanity in both characters. Their romance develops against a backdrop of deteriorating political conditions and impending danger, making it all the more compelling.

Pulley's storytelling prowess shines as she paints a vivid picture of life on Mars, a society divided by privilege and inequality, reminiscent of our world's own struggles. The immersive world-building and the exploration of social issues make this book deeply thought-provoking and relevant.

"The Mars House" is a timely and powerful read, offering an engaging narrative that keeps you turning the pages and unforgettable characters that resonate with the complexity of real-life individuals. It's a story that challenges preconceived notions and prejudices while delivering a captivating narrative. Fans of thought-provoking science fiction and those who appreciate explorations of love and social justice will find this book unmissable.

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I’ve really enjoyed every book Natasha Pulley has written, and I was delighted to find that this one was no exception. The worldbuilding was so rich and thoughtful, and the writing was exquisite as always. Pulley is so good at writing characters who are morally complex, which seems harder and harder for people to do well—but she conveys so much nuance and treats her characters with so much care. I find her protagonists to be very grounding, and January was a perfect baseline from which to understand an entirely new world. I’m excited to read this again and again!

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Natasha Pulley has done it again, but even better than before. This book is easily her most complicated, most romantic, and funniest book yet. I blasted my way through it in less than 20 hours. My mind has been properly blown to bits, my soul has not returned to my body yet, and I feel a little high like now, like I'm floating in Martian gravity. You can say that it was a very immersive reading experience.

The story is a bit hard to describe. We first meet an English ballet dancer named January, who is about to perform in a performance as a principle when England sinks. Not having any other options, he immigrates to a colony on Mars called Tharsis. Only, the Tharses aren't that similar to Earthstrongers (humans from Earth), not physically, not culturally, not linguistically, not even technologically. And life sucks for January for a while, until the day he meets Senator Gale, whose political view January completely disagrees with, and ends up in a prison. But this is as bad for Gale's campaign for the upcoming election as it is for January's job prospect. So, Gale proposes an urgent solution where they will hire January to marry them and January would make them seem less like the executioner of all Earthstrongers. January agrees for the sake of survival.

But then, he finds himself in a reality show shooting, in a haunted, high-tech house, in a hotel with polar bears, in a wintry forest with mammoths, and in a middle of a super intricate political game, all while inevitably falling in love with a very smart and kind politician whose policy he still doesn't buy. So, you can see where my difficulty in talking about anything beyond the premise of the book comes from.

You can say this book is an enemies-to-lovers, marriage-of-convenience, queer romance story, and you'd be right. It's actually a very lovely romance, with some angst but also a lot of hurt/comfort. January is a capable and reasonable person, who simply wishes that everyone would think in a straight line and would trust him to not blackmail them should they tell him their secrets. His confusion and fear as he navigates Tharsis is very relatable. And you just can't help but root for him, because you understand that he's really just doing his best. Gale, on the other hand, is the love of my life, and that's all I'm going to talk about them, because, if I have to pick my number one favorite thing about my reading experience of this book, the answer would be the slow-burn process of uncover what Gale is like for myself and falling in love with them alongside January.

You can think of it as a science fiction, with all the details about how to make Mars habitable for humans, which involves a lot of physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and statistics. But the worldbuilding of this story is immaculate, almost to the point of overwhelming, not because of the science, but the language, culture, and politics. The worldbuilding allows for discussion about international affairs, gender politics, racism, colonialism, and systematic welfare issues in a very refreshing way. It's nothing you haven't heard about before, but it's like seeing the roof of your own house from a bird-eye view for the first time and suddenly feeling your understanding of the world shift a few degrees beneath your feet.

By the way, this is not entirely a metaphor, though, as you sometimes get to see this very complicated world from the viewpoint of animals for real. If you've read Natasha Pulley's work before, you know that she is a master of writing animals, and they're such a delight in this book. Their little opinions are mostly in the footnotes, which are my favorite thing in this book, right after Gale.

You can also think of it as a horror-mystery fiction, surrounding the disappearance of Gale's previous lover, Gale's random episodes of sleep paralysis, the person that only the gigantic pet dog seems to see, and multiple attempt at both assassination and massacre that looks, from some angle, disturbingly like genocide. There are so many things going on that at times I couldn't quite keep track of what I know, but it was fascinating to see this very complex knot of intertwining plotlines gets entangled, gently, thread by thread, in the end. I can't begin to explain how Natasha Pulley does it. All I know is that she is truly a genius.

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Natasha Pulley’s latest work at first glance seems so different than her other books. It has a future setting mostly on Mars instead the usual historical fiction, but it is full of her immersive atmospheric settings, enigmatic characters, and slow-burn queer romance. This may be classified as a sci-fi book, but it has much to offer for those who don’t usually read sci-fi.

The main character, January, is an Earth refugee in an arranged marriage with Gale, a mysterious Mars politician. Because of the difference in gravity on Earth vs Mars, those from Earth are three times stronger than those born on Mars, and have to wear metal cages to contain their extra strength. They are second-class citizens on Mars, where gender traits have been genetically abolished and daily life is difficult in the harsh climate.

The world-building of this book is amazing: from an Earth with both massive flooding in Europe and mass wildfires in the US, to the Mars colony that has been terraformed so that humans can survive there. But as usual, it is the characters that really draw you in. They are lonely, interesting, and flawed, and you can’t help but hope that the two main characters will be together in the end. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it, and I’m already impatiently waiting for the sequel! I will be purchasing this in print, ebook, and audiobook for my library.

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I blazed through this! Love the science fiction take from this author. I've read two of Pulley's fantasy works so far and I was excited for this one. The combination of fanfic style with literary is comforting and the trademark slowburn romance is here. I'll be recommending this to fans of Winter's Orbit or even Starless Sea or Sea of Tranquility. Thank you for the advanced reading copy.

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An utterly delightful sci-fi political thriller slash romance, pitched perfectly to hit all of the necessary buttons in each category. Pulley has a blast imagining a medium-term-future (a couple hundred years down the line) and brings readers along one step at a time via audience-surrogate-main-character January -- who goes from being the principle dancer for the London ballet (in an all-too-eerie and plausible climate-ravaged future-London) to being an asylum-seeking immigrant on Mars to being the consort for an apparently xenophobic and anti-Earther Martian senator. This book does it all: fish-out-of-water scenarios, passionate debates with thoughtful responses about immigration and gender and cultural other-ing, slow-burn romance, thrillingly tense standoffs and secrets, and oh did I mention the mammoths? Just wait until you get to the part with the mammoths.
All-around enjoyable, pretty much a perfect read.

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It is surprisingly rare for a science fiction book to take the science very seriously, including cultural implications, while still focusing on the characters and the plot. I love it when an author can pull that off, and Natasha Pulley has done it here.

The most recent similar books I can think of is Ian McDonald's moon trilogy, starting with [book:New Moon|23848027]. Those are very different than this, but take the moon as seriously as this takes Mars.

I was crushed when the ballet dancer January Stirling was in a movement-restriction cage. It is much like Harrison Bergeron, but with entirely reasonable social justification, rather than the idiocy of Diana Moon Glampers.

While I was reading this, I started the non-fiction book [book:A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?|125084292], which takes a more pessimistic view of space settlement science, but not entirely out of step with this book's assumptions.

As she points out in the afterword, this is a departure from the historical novels she's written before. Don't be deterred, jump on this rocket to Mars.

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Natasha Pulley is a must-read author for me, and her new book — a brilliant leap from the magical realism and time travel of her previous novels into full-on sci-fi — was a thrill ride from beginning to end. She is a master at world-building, and/but beyond vividly rendering place and time, she populates her spaces with characters that routinely break my heart and put it back together again. It was easy to fall in love with our hero January and his extraordinary circumstances; the surprise was how much I cared for the prickly, verbally smooth, painfully ambitious Gale. They reveal depths of character — and plot surprises — that kept me on an emotional edge and somehow had me rooting for their happiness. I don't want to give away any of the delightful plot twists, but will say this: I did not have mammoths on my bingo card, and it was a gleeful pleasure to find them there. I can't wait to read this again, and that's the highest praise I can give a novel.

This book will be featured on my podcast 'The Library of Lost Time' (https://strongsenseofplace.com/library) on 22 March 2024.

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I've loved Natasha Pulley for years now and this was both an exciting new direction and endearingly familiar. I would read her write about animals and lonely souls getting adopted into found families forever. She's consistently delved into tangled international politics and this is no exception. I found the thorniness compelling and the characters absolutely heart wrenching. I'm already trying to get one of my fellow booksellers to read it as soon as possible!

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Thank you so much to Netgalley and Bloomsbury publishing for allowing me to read one of my most anticipated books of 2024!

Having written some of my favorite books of all time, Natasha Pulley is an instant-read author for me. The Mars House is completely different from anything she has written before but it does not disappoint. What we love from her past complex characters--their selfishness, selflessness, and enormous capacity for love--is still present in the characters here. January was an interesting and compassionate voice to experience a Martian colony through. I particularly loved that all Martians use they/them pronouns, because of course a futuristic society would.

While sometimes, especially in the early world-building, it was evident that this was Pulley's first foray into science fiction. But the world and characters she created were so interesting that it was easy to fall into the world and the story.

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Thank you Bloomsbury and Netgalley for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

"I think any kind of strength means you have to be careful around people who don't have it. That's just being an honourable person."

A note to the publisher before I begin: The ebook formatting was horrendous. I think it needed to be tested on a couple devices to ensure formatting was legible before uploading to netgalley.

Now onto my review...

The Mars House by Natasha Pulley was a genre bending sci-fi political work of art that took me on a absolute whirlwind of journey. This book, to me, is the most political out of her portfolio to date. It was an interesting reflection on the world we know today existing in the future. There are so many parallels to be dissected about strength, privilege and gender, and how there is a give and take necessary to enact positive change, as well as remaining hopeful. It's a book that had me on the cusp of uncomfortable, but in a way that encouraged self reflection. That being said, TMH had the same tone that all of Natasha's books have, grounded by her own research with a seasoning of magical to keep it otherworldly, so I was also still able to have a very good time with it. I mean, there's some fun mammoth interaction that is reminiscent to the beloved Katsu. I can entice the seasoned Pulley fans with that one ;)

I always say Natasha is a masterclass with her prose and the way she brings her characters to life. I think I could be given an unlabeled book and be able to detect her work. This book was no different. Additionally, the use of footnotes as a vehicle to further understand the world on Mars, and gather more of January's perspective, was done so very well. I need her to include footnotes in all her books at this point!

Our main characters January and Gale were phenomenal from the get go. Though they follow the general shape Natasha Pulley tends to have with her main characters, it didn't make either of them less of a character worthy of getting to know. January was lovable, a man stripped of his success and trying to find his footing again from the ground up. He had such a poignant sense of humor that had me genuinely laughing aloud. The way he was a vessel of knowledge for Gale, our out of touch and initial antagonist, was executed very well. Gale was an interesting character from the start, as I originally saw them as someone to dislike (much like Jan), but grew to adore them in the way only Natasha knows how convince. They acted as a good advocate for January, poised and unwavering, but still desperate to do what's right even if it's going against what they were groomed to believe. January and Gale have an enemies to lovers, forced proximity dynamic, and I love what they bring to the table for each other
Sidenote: Gale is Lan Wangji from The Untamed but on Mars, you can't convince me otherwise.

As with a traditional Pulley novel, our secondary characters are strong in supplement for what they bring out in each of our main characters. They offered some comedic relief, clues as to possible twists (and I mean it was a GREAT twist!!), etc. I genuinely loved them. The use of technology was also an impeccable way to highlight our own society's dependency on it, and that these things we often refer to as "innovative" can really be detrimental if we rely too heavily on it.

There's a lot to be said about gender and privilege in TMH, and I found their place in this novel crucial and thought provoking. Pulley handled it with grace, in her 'I've researched everything to a meticulous degree' way, and I love how her books encourages me to ask questions that make me want to pick up another book, or look up information to make my own judgement.

With all this said, I rate it 5 stars!! All of Pulley's work is it's own category for me, and TMH is no different. It might not have been my absolute favorite of her works, but by and large it excelled too well to be ignored.

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I absolutely could not put this book down. The premise is original, the characters are fascinating, and the sociopolitical allegory is poignant and rings true without feeling overwrought. Although this is being advertised as (and certainly delivers) a thoughtful slow-burn romance, I felt that the romance was actually the least interesting thing about the Mars House. I was gripped by the mystery and had the pleasant experience of not fully figuring it out ahead of the reveal. I couldn't devour this galley fast enough, and can't wait to read it again upon its release.

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This is my third Natasha Pulley book. Lots of authors specialize in a setting or at least a genre and then populate it with different characters. Pulley is the first author I’ve read who seems to write about the same two characters but in completely different settings and even genres. I happen to really love these characters and would read about them in pretty much any setting. This setting just happened to be particularly interesting.

I was super impressed with the world building here. This is, as far as I can tell, Pulley’s first true science fiction book, and it takes place in a colony on Mars. There’s politics and a super interesting discussion about power and marginalization. There are also just truly unique sci-fi details that I haven’t read before, and I’ve read more than my share of sci-fi over my lifetime.

I enjoyed every minute of this.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury!

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Scifi set on Mars that grapples with catastrophic climate change on Earth, folds in a gorgeous amount of linguistics and the beauty and violence of translation, and makes the reader see the humanity in every type of Other. Also, mammoths.

This was an excellent, beautiful book that made me think carefully about how tightly we hold our convictions, the universality of love, and the myriad ways that power manifests fear. Characters had depth and very human flaws, the story reeled me in and unwrapped at exactly the right pace. I loved it.

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"The Mars House" will likely be the most immersive, surprising, charming book I’ll read all year. Did I ever think I’d be invested in Martian immigration policy and gravitational physics? Nope! But Pulley made me care about the beautifully rendered cast of characters and the colony they’re working to save. From the beginning of the novel, I found myself chuckling and reading out the footnotes to my partner who, without even knowing the context, also laughed at their tongue-in-cheek insight. Pulley works her magic in exactly those moments of utter delight, which result from her deep characterization and intelligence. This is a book about a future colony on Mars, yes. But it's mainly a book about the ways we're failing the Earth -- and each other -- now. Fast-paced, incredibly well-researched, socially astute, and humorous, "The Mars House" is going to be one of the big books of the year.

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