Adult/High School-If the space program had not been aborted after the Moon landings, we could have gone to Mars as early as 1981. In this inspiring account of human ingenuity and determination, "children and grandchildren of Apollo" set out to put humans back on the path to space-not through political action, but by "[launching] a science project."
Zubrin shares the inside story of the formation of the Mars Society and the pursuit of its ambitious goal. His passion for the project creates a sense of immediacy and draws readers in as he relates how the group chose Earth locations to serve as Mars analogs, built habitats there, and carried out experiments that tested the performance of equipment and people in Mars-like conditions. These "sims" yielded many unexpected and often fascinating insights into mission technologies, exploration tactics, and "human-factors design," preparing the way for actual missions.
Zubrin explains the science and describes the people with humor and enthusiasm, revealing warts, setbacks, and successes. Diagrams and excellent color photographs help readers to visualize key individuals, equipment, and events. After the Arctic station was established, two more independently funded Mars analog stations were created, in the Utah desert and in Iceland, where volunteers continue to explore "Mars on Earth"; students can follow their adventures on the Web. Those still asking, "Isn't a Mars expedition too expensive/dangerous/irrelevant?" or "Why do we need to look for life/do this when we have problems at home/send people when we can send robots instead?" will find stimulating and compelling answers here.
His first novel, this one belongs with some of the best Mars science fiction (I'll have to do a separate post on that subject)...
Adult/High School-An entertaining, fast-moving, and thought-provoking tale of the first Earthlings on Mars. They don't have an easy time of it-but not because of flaws in the expedition plan itself. They are sabotaged by politics back home and even subverted, for a time, by their own lack of cohesiveness as a team.
Beginning with a spectacularly bumpy landing, the entire mission is plagued by a series of inexplicable mishaps and thrilling escapes. At first, pursuing a scientific mission, the astronauts make some significant geological and biological discoveries. But soon the extent of the sabotage becomes apparent and they must direct all their talents and energies toward survival, growing food and creating fuel from Martian resources.
To complicate matters, the two women and three m
en are highly individualistic people whose personal, religious, and scientific values are in many ways incompatible-scientist and military commander, hillbilly and preppy, intellectual and religious fundamentalist. But despite (and eventually because of) their differences, they don't just survive but far exceed the original vision for the mission.
The author is known for his leadership in the cause of Mars exploration (his The Case for Mars  detailed a realistic plan for an expedition in the near future-a blueprint actually adopted by NASA). Readers might expect "harder" SF than this from such a writer in his first fiction outing, but though its science is indeed interesting, First Landing is chiefly a story about people and their vision for the future, a utopian adventure that many teens should enjoy.
Other Mars titles not to be missed:
Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization
and then there's On to Mars! (not just another book title, it's a rallying cry)
Now for something different yet -
I really loved this one, a satire of the Israeli/Palestinian situation; here, it's all happening in Kennewick, Washington and it's science fiction. It was impossible to do justice to this book in my necessarily brief SLJ review because it's so layered, there are so many twists, and there's just so much going on, so just read the book; but maybe you can get some idea what it's like from my review - I hope so. Back to the review...
Adult/High School-A satiric tour de force. After the Minervan people are nearly wiped out in a distant war, the Western Galactic Empire generously grants them sanctuary in the Minervans' ancient homeland-Kennewick, WA. Unfortunately, the United States, a "Christian" theocracy, does not welcome the "pagans." Government authorities round up the former American inhabitants of Kennewick, isolate them in refugee camps, and teach their children to be martyrs in a propaganda war, assassinating Minervans and carrying the terror to distant planets.
The advanced galactic civilizations are not without faults of their own, including an inability to respect Earthlings as equals. When a Minervan captures an American soldier for scientific observation, she is surprised to discover promising "protohuman" traits, while he learns that the Minervans are not quite the monsters he had believed them to be. And this is just the beginning as Zubrin holds up a mirror to the perpetual Middle East crisis, the current "War on Terror," and many aspects of humanity and modern life.
In less-inspired hands, such an extended satiric treatment might pall, but the author fleshes out this novel of ideas with intriguing characters, delightful twists, skillful plotting, and, above all, humor-all kinds, and lots of it. The satire bites as satire should, but the story also satisfies. This is an engaging romantic fable of interspecies misunderstanding and discovery, and a grand adventure that takes readers all the way to the galaxy's highest court and back home again to a planet much in need of a fresh perspective.
Or would you believe... a play? I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. It would be fun to see it performed, and what actors would do with it. I didn't get to review this, but here's Dori DeSpain's excellent review from SLJ: