It seems that nearly every page of Seattle author Kevin Emerson’s young-adult science-fiction novel Last Day on Mars has a blinking light on it. Since the book takes place on a Mars colony in the far-flung year 2213, most of the lights are on console panels or spacefaring equipment. There are signal lights, too, and a few twinkling stars. But the book is really about one giant blinking light: The sun, billions of years ahead of schedule, is about to go supernova and then collapse, rendering our solar system inhospitable.
The young man at the heart of Mars, Liam, observes that the sun “had darkened from a warm yellow to a fiery orange, a color like you’d only ever see in pictures of the sunsets back on Earth. The star seemed heavy and unsteady, like it might tumble down on them at any moment, but Liam knew the opposite was true: in about three years, Mars would lose its orbit and fall into the sun.”
The theme of the book is clear: No light is eternal. But in Mars, humanity is not ready to be snuffed out. Already forced by our angry sun to vacate Earth for Mars, our species is preparing to launch itself into the void to settle an Earthlike planet many light-years away.
Mars chugs along quickly thanks to its boy-vs.-nature plot, as Liam must save his family in the confusion of a species-wide space exodus. But the book really shines when Emerson takes a breath to pause and consider the situation. Liam’s mother worries that “There’s only one place humans were meant to live, but that place is gone,” leaving everyone with “the biggest question humans have ever faced: can we survive without this sun, outside of this solar system?”
Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or here at seattlereviewofbooks.com. Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com. firstname.lastname@example.org