“A Martian Odyssey” is a 1934 science fiction novelette by Stanley G. Weinbaum. It is about an astronaut who walks several hundred miles across the Martian landscape, and the amazing life forms he encounters.
Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
Dick Jarvis is the chemist on the famous crew The Ares – the first manned flight to Mars. While filming the Martian landscape his plane crashes some 800 miles south of base camp. With only 20 days left until The Ares returns to Earth he decides to try walking back to camp. Along the way he encounters some bizarre life forms, including Tweel – a humanoid / ostrich-oid being with an 18 inch beak that it uses as a landing pad for its 70 foot jumps! But Tweel isn’t the strangest life form on Mars, as Jarvis soon finds out! Could it be the walking blades of grass, the vicious dream monster, or the brick-crapping silicon based pyramid maker? (!) Wow – so many to choose from! But the award for testiest aliens goes to the mound-building barrels who get very upset when Jarvis and Tweel invade their inner sanctum – Eeek!
“That’s right,” agreed Jarvis. “I didn’t know what, so I sneaked over to find out. There was a racket like a flock of crows eating a bunch of canaries–whistles, cackles, caws, trills, and what have you. I rounded a clump of stumps, and there was Tweel!”
“Tweel?” said Harrison, and “Tveel?” said Leroy and Putz.
“That freak ostrich,” explained the narrator. “At least, Tweel is as near as I can pronounce it without sputtering. He called it something like ‘Trrrweerrlll.'”
“What was he doing?” asked the Captain.
“He was being eaten! And squealing, of course, as any one would.”
My Two Cents:
• The good:
- Ah – the good old days when people still believed that Mars could contain life. That is what makes this story so fun – no would write something about bizarre aliens living on Mars now, but Stanley Weinbaum sure knew how to dream ’em up!
- Do you like adventure / exploration stories? Like, um… I don’t know… The Odyssey? Well, then you are sure to enjoy the many splendid wonders found in “A Martian Odyssey”!
• The bad:
- “A Martian Odyssey” was written a long time ago in 1934 – as such there are some scientific ideas that have come and gone. Take, for example, the author’s prediction of atomic energy being harnessed by a mad scientist in the late twentieth century (seems like he missed that one by a few years!) There are some other examples as well, but they are mostly funny and serve to remind us of the true nature of science *fiction*.
- There is a handful of mild profanity. And be sure to watch out for the outdated adverbs – which seem a little bit “colorful” now-a-days!
• Page Count: 23
• Word Count: 10,277
• “A Martian Odyssey” garnered the following awards:
- It placed third in the 1971 Astounding / Analog All-Time Poll for best Pre-1940 short fiction.
- It placed twenty-sixth in the 1999 Locus All-Time Poll for best novelette.
- It placed twenty-first in the 1971 Astounding / Analog All-Time Poll for best short fiction.
Where you can find “A Martian Odyssey”:
- This novelette first appeared in the July 1934 issue of Wonder Stories.
- “A Martian Odyssey” is included in Stanley Weinbaums collection Interplanetary Odysseys.
- It has also been collected in Robert Silverberg’s very excellent anthology The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One.
- You can read a free version (in several different formats) at the feedboooks website. (Be sure to check out the nifty picture of Tweel on the cover!)
- Read a nice HTML version of this story in our very own Science Fiction Short Story Library.
Some Interesting Links:
- Did you know that Stanly G. Weinbaum, the author of “A Martian Odyssey”, died at age 33 – only one year after writing this story? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author at Wikipedia.
Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like A Walk In The Sun, about an astronaut stranded on the moon who must stay in the sunlight until she is rescued, by Geoffrey A. Landis.