The book: In 1970, The Science Fiction Writers of America voted “A Martian Odyssey” as the second best science fiction story of all time, after Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall” (previously reviewed). While I disagree that it’s that great of a story, I can appreciate how influential it was on all science fiction that came after it.
The tale is told by astronaut Dick Jarvis to his fellow explorers on the first human mission to Mars. After Jarvis’s sidetrip from the expedition ends in a rocket crash, he sets out on foot for the main rocket. Along the way, he meets several alien species including the intelligent bird-like creature who introduces itself as “Tweel.”
Tweel and Jarvis’s attempts to communicate and understand one another comprises the leap that Weinbaum made over his contemporaries. Weinbaum imagines an intelligent being who is not just odd sounding or funny-looking, but actually alien in its thought patterns. This took the alien in science fiction from being either a bug-eyed antagonist or a green-skinned stand-in for other humans, to being a rational but unknown xenobiology species. Although this isn’t among the best science fiction stories you’ll ever read, it is a good one that all fans of the genre should know.
Rating: 7 / 10
The reader: Greg Margarite has read numerous science fiction stories for LibriVox. He has an expressive voice that clearly conveys the printed page. In this story, Jarvis is narrating his adventures to the other members of the crew, so Margarite gives the astronaut a cocky tone that fits well with his character. He emphasizes the international nature of the rest of the crew by giving them accents for their few lines. Margarite narrates other Weinbaum stories in the Collected Public Domain Works of Stanley G. Weinbaum at LibriVox, including the sequel to this story “The Valley of Dreams.”