MIDDLE GRADE SPECULATIVE (SciFi) FICTION : In the Red by Christopher Swiedler

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Michael Prasad knows he shouldn’t go out on the Mars surface alone. It’s dangerous. His parents have forbidden it. And the anxiety he feels almost every time he puts on a spacesuit makes it nearly impossible for him to leave the safety of the colony.

But when his best friend, Lilith, suggests they sneak out one night, he can’t resist the chance to prove everyone—including himself—wrong.

As the two ride along the Mars surface in a stolen rover, miles from the colony, a massive solar flare hits the planet, knocking out power, communication, and navigation systems, and the magnetic field that protects the planet from the sun’s deadly radiation.

Stranded hours from home with an already limited supply of food, water, and air, Michael and Lilith must risk everything if they’re to get back to the colony alive.
This exciting survival story made for an intriguing read.  Survival stories on earth can be mind-blowing, but trying to survival almost impossible circumstances on Mars?!  Not to mention, the main character, Michael, struggles with an anxiety disorder, that definitely interferes with his ability to function outside of the colony.  But he so badly wants to prove to both his father and himself that he can do it that he takes the risk anyway.  After things go badly, he things that he may never leave the colony again, until his friend, Lilith, helps him sneak out.  Unfortunately, they picked the worst possible time to sneak out and everything goes wrong.  After a solar flare knocks out the station they are heading to, they two kids are forced to find a way to survive and make it make to civilization using only the few supplies they have and their wits. 
I found the story surprisingly believable and quite compelling. Michael and Lilith are both sympathetic characters with their own struggles and heartaches.  And those struggles explain why they make some of the decisions they do, both good and bad.  Michael's skill with math and science is remarkable and balances out his weaknesses.  He's a bit of a genius actually, which makes it kind of sad that his father seems obsessed with his anxieties (at least that's what Michael thinks).  Michael is described as having brown skin, but no earthly nationality is mentioned (although the name Prasad suggests Indian which some might say suggests a stereotype about smart Asians).  Overall, I quite enjoyed this survival story with it's underlying themes of family and friendship and facing one's weaknesses.


  1. I enjoyed this one, but was a bit angry with Michael for doing such stupid things! Reminded me a bit of the Kevin Emerson Last Day on Mars.

  2. This book was fun to read and the world building was brilliant.

  3. Years, (okay, decades!) ago I really enjoyed Monica Hughes middle-grade sci fi stories, one of which (more than one, I think) was set on the Moon. Your review reminds me of those, and I'm so glad middle-grade authors are doing more "traditional" sci-fi stories like this. I definitely want to read this one.


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