Score: 91+/100 (9.1+ out of 10)
Diary of a Martian is an interesting tale about the future of humanity, space colonization, and first contact with aliens. It's also a story about a young man, a space cadet named Elliot who aspires to do good by his parents by becoming a space marine on Mars.
Elliot, his father, and his academy mates live in a Mars colony called New London, practically the representation of the western world on Mars. On the opposite side of this is New Beijing, the representation of the eastern world on Mars. The two colonies are fierce rivals in just about everything, the least of which is soccer. They have a great distrust for each other due to the history of the two peoples.
See, the Earth had been devastated by both a climate catastrophe and a catastrophic war between the east and west in 2067 that contributed to the aforementioned crisis. Out of desperation to preserve humanity, Mars was targeted for colonization. The plan was to drill deep into Mars, allowing the release of gases that would lead to the development of a planetary atmosphere and thus rain and oxygen.
The irony of this is pointed out as the characters comment that they are basically trying to warm Mars the exact same way that they warmed and ruined the Earth.
Unfortunately, this plan hasn't fully taken affect, so the characters are confined to colony buildings due to the lack of oxygen. Whenever they leave the colony buildings, they are forced to wear full space suits with helmets and an oxygen supply.
While the premise of this book is quite generic and something that you'll see in other sci-fi books, the world building is still quite unique and impressive from time to time.
There is a surprisingly heavy emphasis on the sport of soccer, which is still viewed as the world sport. Elliot and his academy mates represent New London on the colony's co-ed soccer team. They continually play New Beijing like the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals. Maybe there's some symbolism there as the two peoples are in constant conflict with each other.
It's also interesting to note that the soccer ball itself behaves differently on Mars than it does on Earth, and space provides its own unique challenges to the sport.
The most interesting aspects of this book are: 1. the mystery and suspected conspiracy surrounding the death of Elliot's mother, 2. the aliens.
In all honesty, we weren't that engaged with the soccer stuff, the mystery of Elliot's mom, or the surprise villain(s), but we were enthralled with the parts that involved aliens.
The mystery and potential menace of the aliens is built so well. We don't immediately see or read about the aliens. Instead, we get breadcrumbs here and there. We go from the characters finding unusual sized footprints that couldn't be human to them finding an entire abandoned alien base with an alien corpse and writing in an alien language.
We are constantly on edge of what the true nature and intentions of these aliens might be. Those parts make for some thrilling reading!
And then we basically get Space Jam with soccer, but ok...
Anyway, one of the things that really bothered us about this book is that every single first page of every chapter is presented as text on top of the same generic space photo in black and white. Not only is this a humongous waste of ink, but it also makes it very hard for some people (like people with dyslexia, for example) to read. But going back to wasting ink with those chapter pages... that doesn't seem to fit with the message about conserving resources and protecting the environment to prevent the very climate change that led to the results in this book. So, it is kinda ironic. It just seems so needless and unnecessary. We're adults. We just want to read the book, not look at the exact same black and white photo over and over again.
You could argue that it does give a really cosmic/”spacey” feel. The font chosen fits that really well.
Another issue is that we're not sure what really makes Elliot special as a character. He just seems like a generic male protagonist—a blank slate from whose eyes we see the remarkable Martian world. But Elliot was built up by promotional material as being a really compelling, interesting person with a tragic backstory (growing up without a mom) and a cool arc, but we're not sure if that really came across so well. Something about him is that he just doesn't seem to stand alone or be independent or self-sufficient. It always seems like his dad or some other character is there to hold his hand or tell him what to do. Maybe future books in the series can flesh him out and develop his character more.
Check this out on Amazon!