Podkayne of Mars
This article does not
First edition cover.
Podkayne of Mars is a
The book is a first-person narrative consisting of the diary of Podkayne Fries, a 15 year old (Earth years) girl living on Mars with her parents and 11-year-old brother Clark. Due to the unscheduled "uncorking" (birth) of their three
During boarding, Clark is asked by a customs official "Anything to declare?" and facetiously answers "Two kilos of happy dust!" As he anticipated, his seemingly flippant remark gets him taken away and searched. This ploy serves to divert attention away from Podkayne's luggage, where he has hidden a package he was paid to smuggle aboard. Podkayne suspects the reason behind her brother's behavior, but cannot prove it. Clark was told it was a present for the captain, but is far too cynical to be taken in. He later carefully opens the package and finds a nuclear bomb, which he disarms and keeps.
Much of the description of the voyage is based on Heinlein's own experiences as a
Once aboard, they are befriended by "Girdie", an attractive, capable, experienced woman left impoverished by her late husband. Much to Podkayne's surprise, the normally very self-centered Clark contracts a severe case of
Podkayne overhears fellow passengers calling the Fries "criminals" (Mars had been a convict colony) and "savages" (the Fries have
The liner makes a stop at
The Fries are given VIP treatment by the Venus Corporation and Podkayne is escorted by Dexter Cunha, the Chairman's dashing son. She begins to realize that Tom is much more than just her pinochle-playing uncle. When Clark vanishes and even the corporation is unable to find him, Tom reveals that he is on a secret
Podkayne makes an ill-judged attempt to rescue Clark by herself and falls into the kidnappers' clutches as well—only to find her uncle caught too. The captors' scheme is to use the children to blackmail the uncle into doing their bidding at the Luna conference. Clark quickly realizes that once Uncle Tom is released, no matter what happens, their kidnappers will have little reason to keep their prisoners alive. He is prepared, however: he engineers an escape, kills his captors, but forgets to disable the nuclear bomb he had intended to go off only if they failed in their escape.
In Heinlein's original ending, Podkayne is killed. This did not please his publisher, who demanded and got a rewrite over the author's bitter objections. In a letter to
In the original ending, after they escape from the kidnappers to a safe distance, Podkayne remembers that a semi-intelligent Venerian "fairy" baby has been left behind, and returns to rescue it. When the bomb that Clark leaves for the kidnappers blows up, Podkayne is killed, shielding the young fairy with her body. Clark takes over the narrative for the last chapter. The story ends with a hint of hope for him, as he admits his responsibility for what happened to Podkayne — that he "fubbed it, mighty dry" — then shows some human feeling by regretting his inability to cry and describes his plan to raise the fairy himself.
In the revised version, Podkayne is badly injured by the bomb, but not fatally. Uncle Tom, in a phone conversation with Podkayne's father, blames the parents — especially the mother — for neglecting the upbringing of the children. Uncle Tom feels that Clark is dangerous and maladjusted, and attributes this to the mother giving priority to her career. Clark still takes over as the narrator, and, again, regrets that Podkayne was hurt and plans to take care of the fairy, this time because Podkayne will want to see it when she is better. This is the ending that appeared when the book was published 1963.
The 1993 Baen edition included both endings (which differ only on the last page) and featured a "pick the ending" contest, in which readers were asked to submit essays on which ending they preferred. The 1995 edition included both endings,