Book Nerd Guest Post
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Series: Chronicle of the Dark Star (Book 1)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (February 14, 2017)
Praise for LAST DAY ON MARS
“Emerson’s writing explodes off the page in this irresistible space adventure, filled with startling plot twists, diabolical aliens, and (my favorite!) courageous young heroes faced with an impossible task.” --Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series
“Last Day on Mars is thrillingly ambitious and imaginative, a rousing space opera for any age, meticulously researched and relentlessly paced. A fantastic start to an epic new series.” --Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of The School for Good and Evil
“This is perfect science fiction: a terrifying yet very cool vision of the future, lots of technological awesomeness, mind-bending alien mysteries, a mission to save the human race—and two funny, resourceful, very real kid heroes who I’d follow to the edges of the universe.” --Tui Sutherland, New York Times bestselling author of the Wings of Fire series
“A hugely enjoyable blend of adventure, humor, science, and kids trying to find their place when humanity itself doesn’t have one.” --Emma Trevayne, author of The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden
“Action-packed science-fiction adventure.” --Brightly.com
What fiction most influenced your childhood, and what effect did those stories have on LAST DAY ON MARS?
When I was a kid what I remember reading most were Choose Your Own Adventure books about Dungeons and Dragons, Indiana Jones, and James Bond. Those books have been on my mind lately for two reasons.
When I was a kid reading those books, it was pretty hard not to thumb ahead and cheat: sneaking a peek at what would happen for each choice before you chose. Of course we’d like to know our options, and yet in real life, every choice is somewhat of a gamble, and a commitment to one future and not some other one you’ll never get to experience. (In the second book of this trilogy, we get a little deeper into the idea of possible futures and the concept of a quantum superposition, but that’s a conversation for next year).
Second, in Last Day on Mars, I thought it would be interesting to give the main character, Liam, an alien device that allows him to cheat the way we always would in Choose Your Own Adventure books, but with a catch. The alien device lets him see one version of what might happen in the future (the most probable one), but not others. And so while it is helpful for him to know some of what might happen next (especially when what happens next is him dying!), he is still uncertain what will happen if he tries something else. He can’t use it too often, as the side-effects of the time travel leave him feeling pretty ill. But it was interesting to bestow a character with the ability to partially see the future. In a way, it’s almost more stressful to get a limited glimpse of your destiny, because it takes away the idea that there is only ONE destiny, or a destiny at all. Not only is Liam’s world ending (via moving away and the Sun swallowing Mars), and his future unknown (will they make it to their new home? Will it be safe there?), but now he sort of sees his life as this Choose Your Own Adventure book, where there are always multiple outcomes to every choice, and nothing is certain. This level of possibility and randomness is almost too much for a human to take--even though, if you think about it, those elements are always there.
Last Day on Mars is the first book in the Chronicle of the Dark Star trilogy. One of the big questions in the entireseries is: how can (or even should) humans comprehend our place in the universe? What is the cost of such knowledge for our very humanity? Liam’s alien device is just the beginning.
Ten facts about Last Day on Mars
1. The very first idea that led to Last Day on Mars is a file on my computer called School Ship from February, 2006. It was meant as a prologue, where scientists are placing embryos on a ship.
2. When I first talked with the awesome people at Walden Pond Press, who published my previous middle grade novel The Fellowship for Alien Detection, I proposed that my next book would be about a boy who befriends a lonely zombie. We all liked it, but we were worried that zombies had been overdone. They wondered if I had another sci-fi idea, which got me thinking again about that old School Ship idea.
3.The working title of the original proposal and sample chapters was Starbenders. I never really knew why. The working title from 2013-14 was Pioneers.
4. In the original outline, all of the events on Mars were supposed to take place in the first act of the first book of the trilogy. It wasn’t until I began to officially write the first draft that I realized that I had enough material about just the last day on Mars to fill an entire novel.
5. The main character, Liam, was inspired by a conversation that my wife and kids and I had on a road trip. I was recounting an episode of Star Talk about the sun eventually dying out, and my daughter, anxious like her dad, got really worried. What bothered her most was that our world wouldn’t be here any longer. I started to think about what it would be like to be faced with that reality, and have it feel so out-of-your-control. Was there a scenario I could invent where the sun would be dying soon?
6. When I started writing, I realized that while Liam was freaked out by the end of the solar system, he was just as freaked out by the fact that he had to move away from the only place he’d ever called home: Mars. I remember moving just a few miles away when I was ten, and how upset I was.
7. In the first draft of Last Day on Mars, Liam had a pet cockroach named Rusty (there are cockroaches everywhere in the Mars colonies), but then my editor reminded me that this was sort of the same as in Wall-E, and Rusty was cut.
8. I tried to make the geography and atmospherics of Mars as real-feeling as possible. The giant volcano in the story, Olympus Mons, is a real landform, though in reality it is so broad that apparently when you are standing on it, you can’t even tell you’re on a mountainside. In the story, I made it seem a little more like a mountain.
9. I did a lot of research on different types of rocket designs, so that the ones in the novel would at least be plausible (i.e., humanity hasn’t discovered any kind of warp drive or light speed). Along the way, I ended up writing a song about a real-life rocket called the VASIMR, and recording a pretty crazy version with my band The Board of Education. I wanted it to sound kind of like the theme song to The Great Space Coaster. You can hear it (gulp) here it below:
10. One of the very last revisions I made to this book is in chapter 2. It’s the scene where JEFF (their android who is shaped like a smiling panda, a sort of cross between JARVIS and C-3PO) is
Liam Saunders-Chang is one of the last humans left on Mars. The son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival, Liam, along with his friend Phoebe, will be on the very last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed.
Or so he thinks. Because before this day is over, Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space, and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a desperate struggle for survival.
“Do you see any way in?” said Phoebe. “I mean, we’re going in, right?”
Liam swallowed hard. Maybe he had it backward. Maybe they were just two tiny humans in a tiny ship and it was completely insane to even considergoing inside some sort of alien structure. Whatever was in there might capture them, or kill them. They had no way of knowing. And yet . . .
“Yeah,” said Liam. “We’re going in.” He tapped the controls with shaking fingers and circled around. “Maybe if you can make your stuffinvisible, you don’t need doors?” He raised the drone until they hovered above the structure. “Wait, there.” He pointed to a sleek instrumentsticking out of the roof, made of black polished metal. There was a hole torn in the roof beside it, as if the instrument had shifted when thestructure did.
“That kind of looks like a telescope,” said Phoebe. “It does,” said Liam. Maybe there was a benevolent, science-loving alien in there. Then again,the ability to build a telescope didn’t mean you were peaceful, or that you didn’t have meter-long claws and tentacles and a mouth with six rows of teeth like the main villains in Roid Wraiths.”
And now, The Giveaways.
February 13th Monday CBY Book Club EXCERPT
February 14th Tuesday JeanBookNerd VLOG & GUEST POST
February 15th Wednesday Sabrina's Paranormal Palace REVIEW & RANDOM THINGS
February 15th Wednesday Books, Dreams, Life TENS LIST
February 16th Thursday Such a Novel Idea REVIEW & INTERVIEW
February 17th Friday Wishful Endings REVIEW & RANDOM THINGS
February 17th Friday Mixed Book Bag REVIEW
February 18th Saturday A Dream Within a Dream REVIEW & MUSIC PLAYLIST
February 18th Saturday TTC Books and More TENS LIST
February 19th Sunday Kara the Redhead EXCERPT
February 19th Sunday Reading for the Stars and Moon REVIEW & DREAM CAST
February 20th Monday Taking It One Book at a Time REVIEW & FAVORITE BOOKS
February 21st Tuesday She Dreams in Fiction RANDOM THINGS
February 21st Tuesday Brooke Blogs REVIEW & EXCERPT
February 22nd Wednesday Mama Reads Blog REVIEW
*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*