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Literature / Red Planet

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Red Planet is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about students at a boarding school on the planet Mars, first published in 1949.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Averted when one of the good guys proposes taking a vent grille off of a wall to get to the room on the other side. His friend points out that there will certainly be a similar grille on the other side, fastened by screws they won't be able to reach.
  • Animated Adaptation: An animated three-episode miniseries based on the book aired on Fox in 1994.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: A common feature of rooms in the underground Martian cities, complete with an artificial Sun in the "sky" which mimics the position of the real Sun outside.
  • A Boy and His X: A Martian "bouncer" named "Willis" forms an emotional bond with a human boy, Jim. When Howe (the tyrannical headmaster at the colonial boys' school) attempts to confiscate Willis this drives Jim to open defiance, and Willis' ability to repeat any overheard conversations verbatim reveals a plot against the colonists, triggering a much larger planet-wide rebellion. Finally, the friendship between Jim and Willis (who is probably really a larval form of Martian, not to mention a pregnant female) proves to be crucial in persuading the adult Martians not to annihilate every human colonist on the planet.
  • Bring News Back: Having found about about the Evil Plan, the students have to take a risky journey across the frozen Martian canals to warn the colonists.
  • Corrupt Politician: Resident Agent General Beecher wants to sell Willis to the London Zoo, and to save money aims to prevent the colonists from their yearly migration from the harsh Martian winter. Unfortunately he discusses his Evil Plan in front of Willis, unaware that the alien can repeat any conversation with perfect clarity. Turns out the Martians are rather annoyed as well, as you would if someone tried to sell a child into captivity.
  • Cut the Juice: When the rebel colonists hold up in the school, Beecher cuts the power, figuring they'll be forced to surrender without light and heat.
  • Evil Plan: The company administration back on Earth plans to stop the yearly winter migration to save money, by using both the summer and winter colonies to house settlers. Nobody tells the colonists this, as the plan is to stall the migration until it's too late for them to do anything about it.
  • Hibernation/Migration Situation: The human colonists migrate to avoid the harsh Martian winters, while the native "bouncers" like the protagonist's "pet" hibernate. It turns out the colonial administrator is planning to stop the migration in order to populate the habitats year-round with new colonists. And bouncers actually aestivate for decades before emerging as mature Martians with immense Psychic Powers.
  • High-School Hustler: Smythe manipulates Jim and Frank into paying him to do favors for them.
  • Martians: The three-legged Blue-and-Orange Morality-espousing Martians start off as a major part of the setting, the "natives" on a planet that is being colonized by humans from Earth. By the end of the novel, the leaders of the colonists have come to realize that the Martians could easily wipe out every human on Mars if the humans continue to annoy them, and are possibly millions of years more advanced than humans are.
  • Non-Linear Character: The Martian Old Ones are so old they have trouble knowing "when" they are. At one point, a regular Martian guide shows an Old One a globe of current Mars to help the Old One locate himself temporally.
  • No More for Me: A low-key example; when the boys get back to the station after their first major encounter with the native Martians—with Jim, Frank, and Willis the Martian "bouncer" all quite improbably being carried by their new Martian friends—the driver of the mail scooter turns to the station master and says "We should have left that stuff alone, George. I'm seeing things."
  • Not in Front of the Parrot!: Willis the Bouncer is confiscated by the new headmaster Howe, who is unaware that the Martian 'pet' has sentience and can repeat any sound with perfect clarity. Willis overhears a discussion between the headmaster and the colonial administrator, who in a money-saving measure is planning to stop the colonists from migrating away from the harsh Martian winters. Willis repeats this conversation to the protagonists, setting off the plot as they set off to warn the colonists of the Evil Plan.
  • Sentry Gun: The rebel colonists are trapped in a building, but when a couple of them are gunned down trying to surrender, the others realise that no-one is actually watching the door except some automatic Ray Guns triggered by photosensor, so they're able to escape.
  • Superweapon Surprise: The Martians use their Psychic Powers to make Howe and Beecher disappear right in front of everyone. Then they demand that all humans leave the planet immediately or face extermination. Fortunately Doctor MacRae is able to talk them out of it.
  • World War III: A long time ago, there was a World War III. No details are given except that the "eastern allies" (whether the "eastern allies" are meant as an euphemism for "Soviet Bloc" or allies of the Western Bloc, is not clarified) stockpiled nukes in the Egyptian pyramids and that the pyramids got destroyed in the course of the war.