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Book Review: Journey Between Worlds by Sylvia Engdahl

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Journey Between Worlds by Sylvia Engdahl is a young adult science fiction novel that was originally published in 1970. Last year, an updated version was released in hardcover by G. P. Putnam's Sons, and according the author's note, the main things that were changed were references to computer technology and specifics about the Martian landscape. More significantly, the author writes that she altered aspects of the women's perspectives on careers and relationships to reflect more modern attitudes.

The story is told in the first person by Melinda Ashley, and it begins around the time when she graduates from high school. Mel has definite plans for her future that involve college, her boyfriend Ross, and her grandmother's house on the Oregon coast. They are all disrupted when her father gives to her a ticket to Mars as a graduation gift. Despite her plans, and her desire never to leave terra firma, she goes with her father to Mars.

Before they depart from Canaveral Terminal, she meets Alex, a native of the Martian colony, who is on his way home from having studied at an Earth university. On the long journey to Mars, her friendship with Alex begins to open her eyes to other possibilities and perspectives. In the end, she stays on Mars, despite her love of Earth and her grandmother's house, but the point is more about the journey she takes in opening her mind and heart to something completely different from the plans she has had all her life.

Mel still has some old-fashioned ideas about love and marriage, which I assume are carry-overs from the 1970s edition that could not be changed, particularly since they are crucial for some plot points. Other than that, the book feels as fresh and interesting as any near-future novel I have read.

Engdahl tells the story in much the same way one would tell a friend or a diary: alluding to outcomes and then going back to describe what lead up to them. It does not feel circular, repetitious, or forced. In fact, it is a delightfully pleasant read that flows along nicely with just the right amount of tension and anticipation to keep the reader's interest.

The author dwells less on the technology and shiny gadgetry of space travel and planetary colonization, and more on the human aspect thereof. This results in a very accessible story for readers who are interested in space colonization as well as readers who enjoy stories about personal growth and relationships. Science fiction is often seen as being only for boys, although that attitude is changing, and this book would likely be well received by both young men and women.

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About Anna Creech

  • http://philobiblon.co.uk Natalie Bennett

    This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net , which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States, and to Boston.com. Nice work!