Arabella of Mars

/ posted in: Reading Arabella of MarsArabella of Mars by David D. Levine
on July 12th 2016
Pages: 320
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Tor
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England and Mars

Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.
Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father's deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.
Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family's circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.

Goodreads

Arabella was born and raised on a plantation on Mars.  Her mother is from England and wants to take her daughters back to have them raised as proper ladies.  When Arabella’s father dies, she seizes the opportunity and takes them back to England, leaving Arabella’s brother in charge of the plantation.

Back on Earth, Arabella doesn’t fit in.  When a nasty cousin realizes that he will be heir to the plantation if her brother dies, he jumps on an airship to Mars to kill him.  Arabella realizes that she needs to get to Mars first to warn her brother.

This book felt a lot more like a sea-going novel like Horatio Hornblower than a space-traveling sci fi book.

The ships that travel to and from Mars are basically British naval vessels of the sailing era fitted with balloons.  Arabella disguises herself as a boy and gets a job on a ship.  Most of the book takes place on the ship on the way to Mars with aerial battles and possible strandings and mutinies.

I was interested to see how this wooden ship was going to be made able to withstand the rigors of space.  Were the balloons going to wrap around it and seal the ship?  Nope.  In this world science is different.

  • There is air in space so you don’t need oxygen.
  • There is wind in space to move the ship using the sails.
  • It isn’t cold.  You can wander about in normal clothes.
  • There’s no vacuum so you don’t explode.
  • The only thing different on Mars is lighter gravity.

Social issues discussed

  • The role of women in society
  • The captain of the ship Arabella works on is Indian and that doesn’t sit well with several of the white crewmembers
  • There are native inhabitants of Mars who the English treat as servants as they were wont to do when colonizing places.  The Martians are not pleased with this.

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