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Stowaway to Mars (1935)

by John Wyndham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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354562,219 (3.08)9
'It was a desert. A vista of reddish rocks and drifted sand, arid and hot, extending to the limits of their view. A dreary waste upon which nothing moved or grew . . .' For British pilot Dale Curtance the Keuntz Prize - to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back - is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he's also got to beat the Russians and Americans. Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There's only one problem - a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected. 'Perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced' Stephen King… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
Readable but has not stood the test of time as well as his later works. ( )
  SChant | Mar 22, 2022 |
I'm not a big Wyndham fan. I try his books but never keep them. Oddly his early works are my favorites. This one was pretty good. Sure, its dated but it shows much inventiveness. For 1935 it was a good imagined story about space travel and Mars. ( )
  ikeman100 | Jan 26, 2022 |
I love John Wyndham's science fiction. I have been a fan since my college days when I read The Chrysalids (in an effort to read all the books I was supposed to read in High School).

Wyndham first published this work with the title, Planet Plane in 1936 under the pen name John Beynon. It was later published as a serial novel under the names The Space Machine and Stowaway to Mars. Stowaway is one of his first works, and it shows. The plot lacks the drive and balance of his later efforts.

The story centres around one person's drive to be the first to reach Mars and return. Of course, there is a stowaway—a woman named Joan.

It's interesting to see how Wyndham handled gender issues. On the one hand, Joan is portrayed as a tough woman who is determined to break free of preassigned roles (in contrast to the protagonists's earthbound and pregnant wife). Her iconoclastic role is undermined, however, as the story continues.

The philosophic role of machines and technology in society is the most interesting part of the book. The protagonist is enamored with his machines and the accolades they have won him. His wife, on the other hand, is threatened by them. Martian society has fully accepted and allowed machinery to flourish. Joan, in a conversation with the Martian Vaygan questions his acceptance of them:

"'The Machines?' Joan repeated. 'What are the Machines? They are the puzzle which brought me here.' She told him of the machine which had somehow reached Earth. 'I felt nervous of it,' she owned, 'and I felt nervous of your machines last night. I think that is the first reaction of all of us to our own machines. Some never get beyond it, others get used to it, but when we think of machines we feel that in spite of all they have given us and all they do for us there is something malignant about them. Their very presence forces us down ways we do not want to go'" (149).

Joan continues to question the Martian's apparent subservience to their machines. Vaygan later admits:

"'In a sense the machine must rule from the moment it is put to work. One surrenders to its higher efficiency—that is why it was made'" (168).

These thoughts anticipate the work of Jacques Ellul!

Stowaway is not one of Wyndham's great stories, but it's still a thought-provoking read. ( )
  StephenBarkley | Dec 15, 2014 |
NIL
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
This is the earliest story that I know of by John Wyndham. He wrote it before selling his first published book, The Day of the Triffids. It is vintage, old-fashioned science fiction; nevertheless, it is well written and the one notable female in the story* is treated as a brave, intelligent, and independent character. That in itself was rare in the 1930s.

*There are two: intrepid heroine and cowardly wife.

However, it is very old-fashioned science fiction: read it only if you're determined to read all of Wyndham's works. ( )
  monado | May 21, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wyndham, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buchan, MartinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jake Reilly, the night watchman, made his usual round without any apprehension of danger.
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'It was a desert. A vista of reddish rocks and drifted sand, arid and hot, extending to the limits of their view. A dreary waste upon which nothing moved or grew . . .' For British pilot Dale Curtance the Keuntz Prize - to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back - is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he's also got to beat the Russians and Americans. Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There's only one problem - a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected. 'Perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced' Stephen King

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