July 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

martMARTians by Blythe Woolston


In a near future, mega-stores have taken over the world so easily that every aspect of our lives — our education, living quarters, health care, and even our police force — is owned by that mega-store. So when a teenager, booted out of school, abandoned by her mother, and suddenly forced to fend for herself, begins working at said mega-store, everything — and I mean everything — becomes bleak and nihilistic.

Woolston introduces us to Zoë Zindleman, a promising seventeen year-old, and then proceeds to dump one dilemma after another on her as she tries to find her way in this dystopia. She has friends, but the story is very much about Zoë finding herself after suffering so much in this short novel. Much is left unanswered in this book, not for the sake of ambiguity, but because anything that exists outside of Zoë’s experiences is unnecessary to the story. Sure, it might be nice to know why her mother left her, or what the significance of a picture with her father is, but what’s important to know is that she’s been abandoned. From that point, the story is about Zoë’s own development outside of the mega-store.

The book both is and isn’t an easy read. On the one hand, the prose style is simple and breezy, though what it tells us is not. A simple statement can have a lot of hidden meaning, such that some of those unanswered questions may actually have an answer if one delved deeply enough into them. On the other hand, the events as they happen in this book are depressing, meaning that it’s not going to be like sitting down with a beach novel and breezing through it without thinking. Chances are, you’ll be thinking a lot, even after you finish the book.

Reviews for this book are mixed, with readers seeming to love it or hate it. I’m not sure that I’m thoroughly in the “love it” camp, but I certainly found something more than a casual read with this book, which goes a long way with me. Lack of plot? Lack of characterization? I can see the reasons for those arguments, but to me, the only character that matters here is Zoë, and her development is the plot. It’s hard for me to make a blanket recommendation for MARTians, but if any of that sounds like your kind of thing, then it would be worth reading.

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