Jennifer L. Holm: The Lion of Mars (Random House 2021)
What will life be like living on Mars? When people populate the planet, build modern houses, and roads criss-cross the landscape? But what will it be like when they just arrive? When everyday life becomes a constant struggle and they can only rely on each other?
Bell has lived on Mars all his life. He only knows as much about the Earth as the adults who came from it tell him and he learned from books and movies. Few people live on the American settlement, so everyone has to do their part in the daily tasks. Apart from the algae and some plants they produce themselves, they are kept alive by a supply ship that arrives from time to time. Their only cat, Leo is one of Bell’s best friends. One day the boy discovers an unknown phenomenon, but the danger to the station is something much more ordinary. Now, for once, they would really need the help of the other people on Mars: there are Chinese, French, Russian and Finnish settlements on the planet, but they are not in contact with them. The children need to figure out the cause and solution of the conflict, because their lives may depend on it.
Although the stakes are high: for survival, the atmosphere of the novel is not tense. Rather, it shows how people have to face everyday challenges. The story is not fast, but rather pleasant, which immediately draws you in. I just wanted to read a chapter from the novel, but I couldn’t put it down. The motif of the lion was very interesting, which could refer to the main character, the cat and the herd, where the lions live and raise their cubs together.
The author did not want to depict a high-tech, terraformed Mars, but a version similar to a family farm, which was inspired by the fact that her father grew up on such a small farm during the Great Depression and although times were difficult, the neighbors always helped each other. By the way, several of the writer’s novels take place in this period of time. Her father later became a pilot and after that she started thinking on what it would be like to grow up on Mars. If you don’t like sci-fi books, I still recommend it from the bottom of my heart, because these books will make you love this genre.