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A ROVER'S STORY by Jasmine Warga Kirkus Star


by Jasmine Warga ; illustrated by Matt Rockefeller

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-06-311392-3
Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

A Mars rover discovers that it has a heart to go with its two brains.

Warga follows her cybernetic narrator from first awareness to final resting place—and stony indeed will be any readers who remain unmoved by the journey. Though unable to ask questions of the hazmats (named for their suits) assembling it in a NASA lab, the rover, dubbed Resilience by an Ohio sixth grader, gets its first inklings of human feelings from two workers who talk to it, play it music, and write its pleasingly bug-free code. Other machines (even chatty cellphones) reject the notion that there’s any real value to emotions. But the longer those conversations go, the more human many start sounding, particularly after Res lands in Mars’ Jezero Crater and, with help from Fly, a comically excitable drone, and bossy satellite Guardian, sets off on twin missions to look for evidence of life and see if an older, silenced rover can be brought back online. Along with giving her characters, human and otherwise, distinct voices and engaging personalities, the author quietly builds solid relationships (it’s hardly a surprise when, after Fly is downed in a dust storm, Res trundles heroically to the rescue in defiance of orders) on the way to rest and joyful reunions years later. A subplot involving brown-skinned, Arabic-speaking NASA coder Rania unfolds through her daughter Sophia’s letters to Res.

The intelligences here may be (mostly) artificial, but the feelings are genuine and deep.

(afterword, resources) (Science fiction. 9-13)