The Mars Diaries series, written by Sigmund Brouwer, is a science-fiction series centered on a 14-year-old named Tyce Sanders, who lives on a base in Mars specially designed to allow scientists to conduct experiments in preparation for a potential human colony on Mars. His mom works on base as a scientist, while his dad pilots one of the transport vehicles between Mars and Earth.
But Tyce learns that he has a special ability. Due to an experimental surgery (that unfortunately left him wheelchair-bound), he can remotely control a robot, using his brain as the controls, allowing him to venture out into Mars in the way others can't. Unfortunately, the close connection between his brain and the robot can cause trouble when the robot is damaged.
Also along for the adventure are his close friend Rawling McTigre, a medical doctor living at the dome, and Ashley Jordan, a newcomer to the dome that happens to be the same age as him (and as it turns out, shares the ability to control robots). Flip and Flop, two (illegally) genetically engineered koalas, also make several appearances in the series after Book 2.
As the series develops, the Terratakers, a group attempting to utilize the robot projects for purposes deemed immoral by society (such as child soldiers), threaten the safety of the base and of humankind in general. Tyce eventually must work with allies to liberate the other children in the project and prevent the Terratakers from taking over.
And did we mention that this is a Christian book series? While not Anvilicious, elements of the Christian faith are interspersed throughout the novels, including an Author Filibuster at the end that discusses a topic, in most cases adopting the stance that religion and science are not mutually exclusive, and that in many cases the two intersect.
This series provides examples of:
- Affirmative Action Girl: After the first book, in which Tyce's mom was the only major female character, Ashely Jordan becomes the second major protagonist after Tyce.
- Alien Animals: Inverted. Flip and Flop are two koalas created through illegal genetic experiments in an attempt to create animal life capable of surviving on Mars.
- Almighty Janitor: Luke Daab knows his way around technology. Shame that he's on the side of the Terratakers, though...
- And I Must Scream / Fate Worse than Death: When the rescue group reach the base that contains the other robot-controlling kids, they are stuck in a state of suspended animation, allowing the heads of the project to leave them all alone in the middle of nowhere for as long as they choose.
- Also, Luke Daab ends up floating all alone in space in a small spacecraft, expecting to be picked up by the Terrataker fleet. Unfortunately for him, the fleet turned tail when they learned that their plan had backfired, leaving him stranded.
- Batman Cold Open: Played with. It seems like the story starts off in the middle of a dramatic event, but it turns out to be a simulation. The real action had not started then.
- Big Applesauce: The peace summit in Book 8 is held in New York.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The Terratakers, including former director Blaine Steven, Dr. Jordan and Luke Daab.
- Cassandra Truth: When Tyce and Ashley try to convince the others that a rescue team is waiting back at the Elaborate Underground Base, two of the other kids disconnect to find a stunning lack of help. As it turns out, the rescue squad had left the room for a little while, not knowing of their plans.
- Chekhov's Gun: At least once a book, with some in particular coming back a few books later (such as Ashley's silver cross earrings).
- Disability Superpower: Tyce's inability to use his legs stems from the surgery used to implant the system he uses to control robots. Later procedures didn't suffer this problem because they were conducted in better conditions.
- Fascinating Eyebrow: Rawling and Mr. Sanders both seem to do this a lot. Tyce likes the way it looks, and tries to imitate it, but according to Ashley, he can't pull it off well.
- Foreshadowing: The epilogue of each book gives a hint about the subject of the next book.
- Just a Kid: Notably used in the first book when Tyce explains his ideas to Director Steven. It appears in later books in the series, but not quite as pronouncedly.
- Mars: The setting for books 1-5 and 10.
- Not a Game: In the eighth book, the other children believe that the governors they are supposed to shoot are simply a target practice exercise, and are not actually people.
- No Waterproofing in the Future: In the second book, Tyce's robot falls victim to a sprinkler. This becomes a major plot point in the eighth book, when Tyce sets off a fire alarm to stop all of the children from shooting the governers at the Summit (see Not a Game above).
- Spot the Impostor: Tyce gets evidence that someone has been intercepting his e-mails when he sends an e-mail discussing Professor Rawling's college hockey career, when he knows that Rawling actually played football. When the e-mail does not correct the error, Tyce knows that it's an impostor.
- Spotting the Thread: Tyce originally gets tipped off by the unusually common way that Rawlings signed off (he usually uses carpe diem instead of simply signing his name) and the relative duration he had to wait for a reply.
- Unobtanium: Tantalum, used to create nanotechnology, and is in such short supply that Earth's moon is being mined for it. Bonus points for being the name of an actual element.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Meta-example. The first mention of it has it spelled "tantulem." Luckily, this was fixed for later books.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Lampshaded in Book 8. Tyce remarks how no one in New York even glances at the single-file line of robots being marched toward the summit building.
- Lampshaded again in Book 9. When Tyce (as a robot) and his father (disguised as a homeless man) get into a taxi in New York, the driver doesn't even care. Mr. Sanders states that in New York, the taxi drivers have seen everything twice.
- Viewers Are Goldfish: In every book, readers get the whole system of robotic explained to them, despite probably having read the previous books.
- You Said You Couldn't Dance: A variation occurs in Book 10. Since Tyce had the operation to restore function to his legs, he had been practicing walking. As revealed in the final scene, he had also been practicing dancing, and ends up doing a slow dance with Ashley in a garden.