NESFA Members' Reviews

The Tomorrow People

by Judith Merril

Pyramid, 1968 [1960]

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

Two expeditions have gone to Mars, one from the S.U.A.R. (The Soviet Union of Asian Republics) and one from the U.S.A.A. (The United States of All Americas). Only one of those expeditions, the American one, has returned--and of that expedition, only one of the two men has returned. Exactly what happened to the two Soviets and the one missing American is a mystery. The surviving American, John Wendt, was asleep when Doug Laughlin left their ship in a sand crawler, never to return, and never to be found within the range that Wendt could search on his own and return to their ship. Efforts to determine what happened are not aided by the fact that Wendt will say nothing beyond what's in his official report, won't talk about Mars or space at all, won't accept any psychiatric help, and generally won't do anything except go home, fall in love with a famous tri-di dancer, and live in splendid isolation with her in the house they build in the middle of several acres of upstate New York.

The dancer, Lisa Trovi, is as worried about Johnny Wendt as the rest of his friends and former colleagues, and joins in an effort to get him back to the Moon in an attempt to get him to grapple usefully with whatever happened on Mars. Once they get to the Moon, though, Johnny reacts so badly that they scramble to get him back down to Earth as quickly as possible, with Lisa remaining behind for another week, because there aren't two berths available on this trip. And during the next week, Lisa becomes interested both in the psychological complications of long-term residence on the Moon, and in the Mars bugs that Laughlin (the expedition's biologist and medic; Wendt was the pilot, engineer, and physicist) collected and Wendt brought back, and things go sideways from there.

Despite some obvious changes in background assumptions (the Cold War, and what a pregnancy outside of marriage means socially), this is still a solid, interesting, enjoyable short novel.

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