Jim Marlow and his strange-looking Martian friend Willis are allowed to travel only so far. But one day Willis unwittingly tunes into a treacherous plot that threatens all the colonists on Mars, and it sets Jim off on a terrifying adventure that could save--or destroy--them all.
Mars is in the process of being settled by humans, but they still face a lot of problems, in particular the cold and the lack of oxygene in the atmosphere. The local flora and fauna can also be dangerous, and the settlers don't really understand the Martians, though they... Mars is in the process of being settled by humans, but they still face a lot of problems, in particular the cold and the lack of oxygene in the atmosphere. The local flora and fauna can also be dangerous, and the settlers don't really understand the Martians, though they have learned to be respectful and thus avoid problems with them. One of the settlers is a teenage boy, Jim. A few months before the beginning of the story, he saved the life of one of the local animals, a ball-like creature that can extrude legs and eyes, and named it Willis. Willis has lived with Jim ever since and shows signs of a simply intelligence. He is more friend than pet to Jim. But when a new headmaster takes over the boarding school Jim and his friend Frank go to, the situation becomes increasingly tense until the man takes Willis away, planning to sell him to a zoo. As a result, Jim and Frank break into his office to free Willis - and find out about a plot by the company controlling Mars that would endanger their families and all the other settlers. So they take Willis and run from school and the company police that are after them, making a trip across Mars to return to their parents and warn them. On their way, they have to face many dangers and get to know more about the Martians and Willis than they would have dreamed of... This is one of Heinlein's early work when he wrote so-called juveniles for a young audience. As such, the language and contents are simpler than later works, but the book is still a pleasure to read for adults and young people. It is intelligent, witty, funny in places, and has some great adventure and a well-developped alien world and culture. The background on the Martians and their culture was actually used again in one of Heinlein's most famous novels, 'Stranger in a strange land'. I found it very interesting to read both books in a row. What might also be useful to know is that when Heinlein originally wrote the book in 1949, the publisher was so uptight that the novel was cut severely and changed / censored in other places. As a result, important passages were cut out completely, the whole tone was changed, and the book was basically violated. After his death, Heinlein's widow got back the rights and had the original version published. So be careful what you buy: Most of the editions that were published are the cut version. At present, the only uncut edition available has the ISBN 0345493184 and is by Del Rey.