Last Day on Mars: Finally, a good science fiction title for YA readers.

click the image to buy now or check it out at your local library

click the image to buy now or check it out at your local library

Good science fiction for children/YA is rare, especially the kind that would satisfy a purist’s definition.  There have been some enjoyable titles written recently, including Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis and the Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer, but sci-fi purists would argue against giving them the sci-fi label and would group them as fractured fairy-tales.  Last Day on Mars, the first book of the Chronicle of the Dark Star series, by Kevin Emerson, has earned its place in this rare field.

Earth has been destroyed by the sun; those who survived did so by travelling to Mars in order to have more time to build a ship capable of carrying them out of the galaxy.  As the book opens, the destruction of Mars is imminent, and our young protagonists are scheduled for the last starliner slated for departure. 

This alone is a good setup for our story; however, there is much more mystery, intrigue, and peril involved than that description delivers.  The prelude has the reader meeting an alien, very similar to a human, known as a chronologist.  She can travel across space and time, observing and recording what happens in the universe.  She is observing what is happening to those of us in the Milky Way when a figure suddenly appears.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
The voice came from behind her. The chronologist turned to discover the blurry image of a two-legged being—
A white sting of energy shot through her. She crumpled to the ground, her vision filled with dancing bolts of electricity…
“I’m just afraid you won’t understand what we’re after,” said the figure. “It’s never been your way to ponder the oldest question.”
The chronologist knew of no oldest question. The idea seemed sort of silly. And yet, maybe not that silly, because here she was dying for it.
As the final moment of her life passed, the chronologist peered at the figure.
“You want to know who I am,” he said.

We all want to know who and/or what he is.  The introduction of these two characters lets the reader know there is even more plotting, scheming, and forces at work behind the scenes that the central characters know nothing about.

My one word of caution: there is a substantial, early section of this book which moves slowly and may lose the reader’s interest.  I hope it doesn’t lose your interest, reader, because the quality of this science fiction is rare among its targeted age range and engaging enough to be appreciated by readers of any age.  If you have any interest in science fiction, or know someone who might, especially a younger reader, this book is a great start to what should be a captivating new sci-fi series.