A Nerd Daily Fantasy & Sci Fi Book to Look Out For
“Ebenbach explores science fiction for the first time in this clever novel focused on a one-way trip to the red planet. Financed by an eccentric billionaire with funding via reality television, six scientists emerge from a ‘Survivors’ gauntlet of seemingly meaningless tests. After two years on Mars, the reality series has been cancelled and the science-ing has been reduced to the humdrum. The engineer from Denmark has alienated himself by expressing his right to do whatever he wants, while the psychologist and astronomer find themselves revealed as breakers of the one hard rule laid down by the managers of the project: no sex. Vignettes of mundane concerns are interspersed with excerpts from the unofficial Destination Mars! handbook by the organization’s founder. The poignancy of the impossible pregnancy is the Bradbury touch, the reality show framework carries fingerprints of Douglas Adams, and the handbook provides a Vonnegut-esque struggle with the paradoxes of the human condition. How to Mars is Andy Weir’s The Martian (2014) infused with poetry in a superbly concise package.”
“David Ebenbach’s new novel wittily dismantles the classic space adventure story. In it, the first colonists on Mars struggle not only with the technical and existential challenges of living on another world, but also with much more familiar conundrums: boredom, cabin fever, a crazy coworker, an unplanned pregnancy, corporate incompetence. Funny and wonderfully inventive, How to Mars is equal parts an absurdist cautionary tale and a warm-hearted exploration of those things, good, bad and indifferent, that make us human.”
—Emily Mitchell, author of Viral Stories
“How to Mars is funny, poignant, and a perfect example of how not to settle Mars.”
“Six Marsonauts must survive on the red planet after their reality TV show is canceled in this delightfully unconventional novel. Two years after having been chosen to receive one-way tickets to Mars for a lifetime of research—all while living under constant surveillance for TV—six scientists are finding life undeniably monotonous, especially since their show was canceled because of low ratings. ‘After a while even scientists can get bored of science. Especially here. Mars, I can tell you, is pretty much rocks, rocks, rocks,’ according to Josh, a psychologist. But when Jenny, the astrophysicist, realizes she's pregnant after having begun a romantic relationship with Josh—although the Destination Mars! Handbook repeatedly stresses that sex is strictly forbidden—the small community must come together to resolve the looming issues associated with welcoming a newborn into their cramped habitat. Not surprisingly, once the TV producers are made aware of Jenny’s pregnancy, the show is brought back and ratings soar. Told from the perspectives of various characters—even ethereal Martian life-forms that refer to themselves as the Patterns—and complemented with excerpts from the Destination Mars! handbook and Jenny's humorous research notes, the story has a strong sense of whimsy, but Ebenbach also creates depth by exploring issues like engineer Stefan's feelings of estrangement and violence and Jenny’s guilt over her sister's suicide years earlier. A poignant examination of what it means to be human.”
“All the old pleasures of SF come back, together with a surefooted grasp of character, an engagingly wry sense of humor, and a unique take on the new wedding of serious space engineering, social media, reality TV and business hype. If [Elon] Musk were a poet, this is how he would sound.”
—Frederick Turner, author of Genesis
“Among scenes that find the six establishing mundane Martian routines come riotous clips from the Destination Mars! handbook, flashbacks to the torturous tests that Destination Mars! subjected its applicants to, and notes from the field (both the Martian landscape, and the six’s internal topographies). The combination is irresistible fun. Through its heartbreaks and surprises, How to Mars is an interplanetary delight.”
“Ebenbach (Miss Portland) imagines the first pregnancy on Mars in this gentle, domestic sci-fi novel of a reality show gone interplanetary. Two years into the filming of reality show Destination Mars! the cast have settled into a quotidian routine on the Red Planet, leading to declining ratings and a production shutdown. Jenny, an astrophysicist, maintains the team’s telescope, and Josh, a psychologist, works to keep things running smoothly in the Destination Mars! base camp. Ignoring the constantly repeated prohibitions against intercourse (“Even Elton John thinks it’s a bad idea,” warns the Destination Mars! handbook ), the pair have sex—repeatedly—and despite their prophylactic precautions, soon Jenny is expecting the first child born off Earth. The challenge of a developing life adds both stress and excitement to a base grown weary of Mars and discouraged with searching for alien life. It also brings the attention of some Mars inhabitants who, like Stefan, the team engineer, fear the additional chaos that a bawling baby will bring to the quiet planet. Ebenbach keeps an intimate focus on Jenny’s pregnancy while portraying the technical details of base living through a satiric lens that sees the relentless deliveries of useless towels and the revival of freeze-dried goldfish. The result is funny, fresh, and winsome.”
“5/5 Stars. Strap in and get ready to blast off on one wild ride. Very much recommended.
Praise for David Ebenbach
On The Guy We Didn’t Invite to the Orgy
"David Ebenbach inhabits a series of minds that most of us would classify as unknowable; he does so with empathy and wisdom, and often with humor as well."
?Roy Kesey, author of Any Deadly Thing and Pacazo
"If The Guy We Didn't Invite to the Orgy were a clothing pattern, it would be plaid, and it would be plaid that used a lot of colors?maybe all the colors?and one of the colors would think, 'All of the other colors go great together, but I don't fit in.' And each of the other colors would be thinking the same thing."
"Wit, tenderness and an earnest attention."
—Jennifer K. Sweeney, award-winning author of How to Live on Bread and Music and Salt Memory
"Unsettling, spiritual, real, and relevant."
—Jonathan K. Rice, editor and publisher of Iodine Poetry Journal
On Miss Portland
"Ebenbach delivers an absorbing, suspenseful story of emotional depth and complexity."
"A complex, intimate, and deeply humane portrait of a person whose experience of the world is both alternate and poignantly familiar."
"Anybody who has ever tried (again) to make a fresh start, to begin again (again), to give it all another shot someplace else (again), will adore Miss Portland."
—Peter Orner, author of Peter Brown and Other Stories
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