Are the Old Martians really a lost race — just withered mummies lying in dark caves? Or are they still alive — somewhere on the red planet?
Sally and Jim must find out. They must help their father discover if the Old Martians still exist. His life work as a scientist is at stake!
But it's not easy. They are only visitors to the Mars colony in the year 2017. And no one really wants them there.
I've seen this book described as Silverberg's first
juvenile science fiction book, though Silverberg himself has also referred to his first two novels (Revolt on Alpha C and Starman's Quest) as
juveniles (which they are, though aimed at a somewhat older age group than this book). Scholastic Book Services has reprinted it at least seven times, through 1973.
Jim and Sally's father is a respected biologist studying the life forms found by the Mars colonists. When his grant gets approved, the whole family moves to Mars for a year, where they are something less than welcome. The colonists are very practical people, very survival oriented – if it doesn't help build the colony, it's a waste of effort and precious resources. Proving that the lost race of Martians still lives might change all that, however.
There's some interesting social commentary (if you can call it that) about the colonists, unexpected in a children's book. Though some of the speculation (mostly about Martian life forms) seems out-dated, much of it makes sense today. The one glitch from an adult-critical reading is the casual mention of artificial gravity, quite out of place with the other technology, which is more or less a slight extrapolation from today's.
(None on file)