Here's the thing: I was a teenager in the last century. Scary, but true. I belong to a generation that thought people might be vacationing on the moon by 2010.
Okay, so strictly speaking, I was a pre-teen when it still looked like routine moon holidays were on the cards. In the eighties, it all seemed so possible. The first space shuttle mission, the first female astronaut, the movie Space Camp... Why wouldn't we believe that they'd put a hotel on that big lump of rock someday?
This Place Has No Atmosphere was published in 1986, the same year as the release of Space Camp. I probably didn't read it until around 1990, but it always takes me back to a time when the future was about robots and flying cars instead of global warming. It's about a girl named Aurora whose parents decide to take up jobs in another town and relocate the entire family, despite the fact that our protagonist is currently enjoying popularity and romance at her old school. Basically your typical 'my parents are ruining my life' situation - except that Aurora's family are relocating to the moon.
Rereading this one, my overwhelming response has been that I'm kind of creeped out. Not by the book itself - it's as fun and easy-to-relate to as ever - but by the fact that we're a lot closer to 2057 than we were last time I read it. When I read it as a teen, the fact that Aurora's grandparents were born around the same time as I was didn't faze me. Why would it? The future was sooooo far away. (And yes, at that time, 'sooooo' was an acceptable way of expressing how very much 'so' something was. Moving on...) This time round, I was pretty much freaked out. The future is here.
On the bright side, I realise that I really have a lot to thank the awesome Paula Danziger for. This Place Has No Atmosphere is the perfect introduction to soft sci-fi, and I think it's in some way responsible for the love of the genre I have today. It's fun sci-fi, with characters you care about, and without all the space combat stuff that puts a lot of people off traditional hardcore stuff. People can live in malls; get tiny twinkling lights woven into their hair; be given detention by the school's robot monitor. Sure, Aurora's family could have just moved to Detroit, but the premise of her adjustment becomes a whole lot more palatable with the futuristic twist.
Verdict: A fun, easy and relevant read. Plus, its message is almost too cute: Aurora's journey to the moon sees her learning to appreciate the fact that she is not the centre of the universe. This one's the book equivalent of comfort-eating, and I'll always keep a copy on hand.