Sunday, October 21, 2007

Heinlein: Red Planet, Blue Pencil, Green Mars

Red Planet: a Colonial Boy on Mars, by Robert A. Heinlein (1949)

At left: Paperback (New York: Ace Books, 1971), #71140, 189 p., 95¢. Cover art by Steele Savage.

Written for a juvenile audience and originally published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1949, Red Planet is one of the most well-known science fiction novels about Mars by one of the field’s most respected authors. Here’s a description from Amazon:

Young Mars colonist Jim Marlowe leaves his home in South Colony to attend a school at the Martian equator, and brings along his round, furry Martian friend Willis. When the friendly creature is captured and held hostage by the militaristic headmaster, Jim and his buddy Frank mount a rescue operation to save Willis -- and stumble upon a terrible secret that threatens the survival of the Red Planet colonies.”

Red Planet has been reprinted many times, most recently by Del Rey in 2006. This reprint, according to Locus Online, “follows the 1990 revised edition, which restored text edited by the original pubisher. It has a new introduction by William H. Patterson, Jr., and has 5 pages at the end showing how Heinlein's manuscript was marked up by the Scribners editor.” Copies of the manuscript can be purchased from the Heinlein Archives and the publishing changes are discussed in "Red Planet – Blue Pencil," an essay by Jane Davitt.

As the Internet Speculative Fiction Database reveals, Red Planet has been reviewed several times, perhaps most notably by Lester del Rey in 1971. More easily accessible are online reviews by Tim Davis at, Rodger Turner at, and Branislav Slantchev at

A concordance to the book is shelved at The Heinlein Society's website and an online "Heinlein Book Cover Museum" has a gallery of some, but not all, of Red Planet's cover art.

Lastly, a couple of copies of the 1949 first edition are currently selling on for more than $1,000 each. Red Planet - Green Mars!

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