Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson

Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson (Walden Pond Press, February 14, 2017), is the most gripping middle grade science fiction book I've read in ages.  A hundred and fiftyish years in the future, our sun is going supernova, long before it should be.  Humanity has been forced to leave Earth, settling on Mars, but with Mars about to be engulfed by the sun, colony ships have set off for a new solar system.  Liam and his friend Phoebe are supposed to be on the last ship leaving Mars.  Their parents are desperately working to finish the terraforming project that will make their new planet habitable, but they have only a few hours left before the colony ship must leave.  And things are going wrong.

The first half of the book covers these last few hours, and it is basically my own personal travel anxiety dream taken to a whole new level of anxious, because the clock is ticking...and  if the kids and their parents don't make it onto the colony ship, they die.

And like I said, things are going wrong.

It's not just your basic level of last minute panic wrong, but a much larger, more threatening wrongness.  We learn right at the beginning of the book that the supernova is not a random happenstance, but deliberate sabotage not just of our sun but of other stars.  An alien scientist had come to Mars before humanity left earth, and was killed there, leaving behind a strange device that allows its user to see future possibilities.  Liam and Phoebe find it, and Liam sees disasters ahead.

Can he and Phoebe save their parents (the terraforming project headquarters is sabotaged), and get off Mars safely?  And in future books, will humanity be able to foil the evil star destroying masterminds? 

So tense. Very, very tense.  I must confess I enjoyed the first half of the book, with just the generic tenseness of escaping a doomed planet, more than the second, in which enemies (the star destroyers aren't the only ones) start playing a more active role.  Liam and Phoebe are sad to be leaving Mars, their home, and the poignancy of their situation is made vividly real, along with the physical details of the Mars colony itself.   I liked Liam and Phoebe lots; they are not so plucky and lucky as to be unbelievable, but simply ordinary kids doing the best they can.

Sabotage, robots, space travel and time-slippiness combine for a nail-biting adventure, that will leave readers anxious for the next book.

Kevin Emerson is the author of The Fellowship for Alien Detection as well as the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos is Gonna Get It. He is also an acclaimed musician who has recorded songs for both children and adults. A former K-8 science teacher, Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. Visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net

Disclaimer: review copy received from the publishers, as part of the blog tour for the book.  The other stops are:

Other Blog Tour Participants: 
Jan. 27th  Unleashing Readers 
Jan. 30th  SciFi Chick
Feb. 1st  This Kid Reviews Books
Feb. 3rd  Walden Media Tumblr
Feb. 6th  Word Spelunking
Feb. 7th  Novel Novice
Feb. 9th  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Feb. 10th  Librarian's Quest

There's a fascinating educator's guide, which you can find at the publisher's website (under "learn.")


  1. Ooo la la. I will go seek this out. Thank you! -- Jen Downey

  2. I don't usually pick up SciFi, but you make this sounds awfully enticing. Thanks for the review. I will check this out.

  3. Well, you've convinced me to read this one! I was sold at " the most gripping middle grade science fiction book I've read in ages."


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