A teenager from Mars and her younger brother visit Venus with their uncle and find themselves in the middle of a brewing civil war. Podkayne "Poddy" Fries is eight Mars years old (about 15 Earth years) and she has been planning to take her first trip to Earth. That is, until her parents cancel the family trip due to the unexpected birth of three test tube baby siblings. Luckily for Poddy, her uncle Tom Fries is a distinguished Martian Senator and he offers to take Poddy and her younger brother Clark to Earth on his next visit. Things start off poorly when Clark jokes to the customs agents that he has "two kilos of happy dust" to declare in his luggage. He's interrogated by customs officials, but they ignore Poddy's luggage. And that's where he's hidden a package a friend asked him to carry to Earth. After his release, he's suspicious of the package and when he opens it, he discovers a bomb, which he is able to diffuse. But who was the bomb meant to kill?
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The ship makes a stop on Venus, which is controlled by the massive (and somewhat evil) Venus Corporation. The result is a capitalism gone wild. There are few rules and almost no ethics. Every decision made by citizens of Venus seems to revolve around money and the efforts to make enough to buy a share or two of Venus Corp. and retire. Advertising is everywhere, life is cheap and it seems as if every person on Venus has bought into the Venus Corp. way of life.
But Poddy begins to see signs of dissent and when Clark is kidnapped, her uncle is forced to reveal that he has been using the two teens as cover to distract executives of Venus Corporation from his true mission: to attend a conference in Luna that might change the way Venus is governed. Before her uncle can free Clark, Poddy impulsively tries to save him and ends up being captured herself. Which is fine with the kidnappers, who now have two teenagers they can use to manipulate Tom. But when Tom is also captured, they realize they may be killed. Clark manages to trick the kidnappers into allowing them to escape and her arranges to have the defused nuclear weapon rearmed and given to the kidnappers in order to kill them.
The bomb explodes and Poddy is injured, but ultimately survives. Her Uncle Tom doesn't take responsibility for her near death and instead tells her parents that they are to blame because they have been too lax with their children. He worries that Poddy is impulsive and reckless and that Clark might be a genius, but that he is also dangerous. As the book ends, Clark spends his time nursing Poddy back to health and it seems as if the two teens might have found a new home.
Best part of story, including ending:
The book was written in the early 1960s and it has not aged well. The portrait of Venus is frankly ludicrous, no matter how far in the future the plot is placed. The technology is clunky and laughable, although the vision of a planet filled with advertising does seem to hit a bit too close to home.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Poddy and Clark are first exposed to the Venus society. The oppressive advertising and hyper-aggressive capitalism has a Bladerunner-like feel that is quite impressive.
Opinion about the main character:
While this isn't supposed to be a book targeting young adults, Podkayne "Poddy" Fries has sort of a Nancy Drew in space feel to her. She seems a bit cartoonish and it's hard to connect with a lead character that seems to only react to events in the most predictable ways.