Loved Mars, Hated the Food

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By Willie Handler

Dix Jenner, a self-proclaimed slacker, is the first chef to live—and maybe die—on Mars. After an explosion kills his colony companions and leaves him with nothing but his spacesuit, his time on the faraway planet is about to expire… until he’s rescued by friendly Martians Bleeker and Seepa, who smuggle him into their vast underground civilization.

Despite an unfamiliar world of telepathy, strange class dynamics, and really bad food, Dix sets out to make his mark. Unfortunately, his success attracts the attention of the corrupt and narcissistic Martian Grand Leader. Forced to run to avoid being imprisoned, Dix gets lucky: a NASA rescue mission lands on Mars. But seeing it brings back the dark secret he’s been keeping from himself about the colony’s explosion…

Genres: Science Fiction, Satire

Length: Novel, approx. 255 pages

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Description

Dix Jenner, a self-proclaimed slacker, is the first chef to live—and maybe die—on Mars. After an explosion kills his colony companions and leaves him with nothing but his spacesuit, his time on the faraway planet is about to expire… until he’s rescued by friendly Martians Bleeker and Seepa, who smuggle him into their vast underground civilization.

Despite an unfamiliar world of telepathy, strange class dynamics, and really bad food, Dix sets out to make his mark. After opening a cafe—who knew Martians loved espresso?—he starts to notice that responsibility can feel good. Not only that, but he’s got a new romance, and for the first time he actually cares.

Unfortunately, his success attracts the attention of the corrupt and narcissistic Martian Grand Leader. Forced to run to avoid being imprisoned, Dix gets lucky: a NASA rescue mission lands on Mars. But seeing it brings back the dark secret he’s been keeping from himself about the colony’s explosion, and now Dix must choose between returning to Earth or spending the rest of his life in a cell on the dusty red planet where he belongs.

About the Author

Author Willie Handler was a satirist well before he became a novelist. Hailing from Canada, where self-deprecating humor is part of the national character, he finds targets for his humor everywhere. His targets include friends, family, co-workers, politicians, farmers, subway passengers, bureaucrats, telemarketers, Martians, and his barber, Vince. With his most recent work, he has crossed over to the world of speculative fiction.

Connect with the Author

Reviews

“Willie Handler’s vivid imagination and enviable writing chops have served up a satirical buffet of a story about the first, and maybe last, chef on Mars. From hors d’oeuvres to dessert, he’s written a winner.”

Terry Fallis, two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

“The wit and wisdom of Willie awaits…”

Tabatha Southey, author and colummist


4 Stars from Jennifer Soosar on Goodreads
Loved Mars, Hated the Food is an imaginative romp on the red planet complete with recipes. It might be the funniest sci-fi book I’ve ever read (but I would say it probably leans more toward speculative fiction). Dix Jenner is a dry witted chef from New Jersey who is selected by NASA for a mission to Mars. Once on the planet, he is separated from his crew by an explosion and is rescued by a couple of inquisitive, mind-reading Martians. Dix must learn to navigate the underground Martian world and carve out a lifestyle for himself. I don’t want to give anything away except to say that coffee lovers will particularly appreciate this story! It is a fun, enjoyable read with a wealth of hilarious characters and situations. Willie Handler’s writing is fresh and snappy with terrific dialogue. A creative and entertaining read!
* I received an Advance Copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.


5 Stars from B.B. Swann on Goodreads
Ever had the feeling you don’t belong? Has the thought “What the hell was I thinking?” ever crossed your mind? Well, New Jersey chef, Dix Jenner did the moment the colony he joined (the first human outpost on Mars) exploded, leaving him alone on a foreign planet with nothing but his space suit, limited oxygen, and two weed-filled brownies. What ensues is a hilarious “rescue” mission by a local Martian couple, Bleeker and Seepa. They bring Dix into their underground home (which has oxygen thank goodness) and try to help him assimilate into their society. But Dix is no NASA trained astronaut, he’s just a homesick chef. He struggles to fit in and decides to share a little bit of his Earth home with Mars. He finds success he never could have gotten on Earth, and maybe even a little extra with a friendly, seductive neighbor.

Handler’s crisp, direct writing and sarcastic humor makes this a fun read. The characters are so real, you’ll want to make a trip to Mars and meet up for a game or two of Sling. The parallels to the political and societal systems here on Earth poke great satirical fun at our failures and stereotypes and at the same time, make you think of ways we can–and should– do better. I highly recommend picking up a copy when it is released on August 14th from Kyanite Publishing. I definitely will be!


5 Stars from D.K. Marie on Goodreads
I received an ARC of Love Mars, Hated the Food in exchange for an honest review.

LMHF was a fantastic mix of satire and sci-fi. I adore satire, but Sci-fi is the genre I read the least, mostly because I don’t like excessive world-building, I’m more into character-driven stories. However, Mr. Handler has the perfect balance in LMHF. He offers enough so I can picture it and get drawn into the martian Mars culture, while not overshadowing what I love, the characters. Speaking of the main character, Dixon, I loved him. He was imperfect but so likable, as the Martians that saved him.

I’d recommend LMHF to readers that love humor, sci-fi, or just a damn good story.


4 Stars from C.L. Ogilvie on Goodreads
(I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.)

A quick and funny read. Handler manages to create a fully realized world with minimal exposition, no small feat for a sci-fi tale. The reader is dropped into the middle of this society along with Dix, and it works. The aliens, Bleeker and Seepa, are hilarious, and their literal interpretations of Dix and his slang had me laughing out loud more than once. Dix is a self-admitted slacker (yes, Dix, it’s actually pretty common for parents to stop financially supporting their 30-something year old offspring), but still likeable, and his reactions to his new environment and roommates are both humorous and relatable. (I mean, come on; who doesn’t love smashed potatoes??) His attempts to introduce the aliens to his favorite foods, hobbies and holidays are very entertaining and keeps the plot clipping along at a good pace. It was also fun to watch him slowly evolve into a more responsible, emotionally mature adult. I love reading stories that focus on themes of chosen families, and his bond with Bleeker and Seepa was very endearing. Throw in a snarky construction bot and I was hooked.

There were a few subplots I would have liked explored in a bit more detail (it’s briefly mentioned his psych test had less than desirable results, but then never mentioned again), and the chapters with NASA officials back on Earth didn’t really offer anything new or significant to the plot (although it’s entirely possible I just didn’t find them as interesting as the aliens). And the final cause of the explosion didn’t quite land for me, but these are quibbles.
Overall, a very enjoyable read, and I will definitely be attempting some of Dix’s recipes.


5 Stars from Caytlyn Brooke on Goodreads
Funny, unique, and daring!
I loved this book! Willie Handler has done an exceptional job creating a wonderful new culture full of interesting characters and “out if this world” situations!
I adored the Martians. Seepa and Bleeker were like an old married couple who can’t agree on anything and I found their literal interpretation of everything hilarious. The smashed potatoes were my favorite! I also really liked Dix. He was very easy to relate too and though he had more ambition and drive than most weed enthusiasts I know, I really liked his character arc where he began as a lazy slacker and transformed into a responsible, reliable leader who became an integral part of the Martian community.
Todd was my favorite character. I really enjoyed his sass and constant worry about his battery pack. This book was wonderfully written and made me laugh from cover to cover. The Martian community was so well developed and explored, I had to remind myself several times that we haven’t found life on Mars yet, but as Dix explains, maybe we’re not looking in the right place.
I highly recommend this novel by Willie Handler and look forward to reading his other books!


5 Stars from Martine on Goodreads
I read Loved Mars, Hated the Food in a single sitting on a recent 8-hour flight!

I was hooked from the first page when Dix Jenner, who has just survived an explosion on Mars, yells, “Is anyone else alive?” at the top of his lungs, on a barren planet, inside his space helmet! I snorted out loud I’m pretty sure I startled the guy sitting next to me.

I had to keep reading to find out how Jenner, a stoner chef from Jersey with no previous space training, ended up on a NASA mission.

Sure enough (because of course there are martians on Mars) Dix Jenner meets two satirically stereotypical martians and greets them with the Vulcan salute and the old Klaatu barada nikto line. By this point I’m laughing out loud and fully annoying the guy next to me. Hilarity and tension ensues when the two aliens, Bleeker and Seepa, attempt to conceal him in their society and Jenner introduces them to dishes and traditions from back home, mashed potatoes, espresso, basketball and euchre to name a few.

When I received an advanced copy of this book, my initial thought was, is this science fiction, I don’t read much science fiction. This book is hilarious and so unique I’m not sure it can fit into one specific genre. It’s for everyone. I will definitely be picking up a hard copy of this novel to share with friends and family, and I might even try out Jenner’s recipe for Trailer Park Hash!


5 Stars from Rowena Tisdale on Goodreads
Loved Mars, Hated the Food was a fresh, enjoyable read! Irreverent, and satirical, Mr. Handler takes the reader on a fun romp as his hero, Earthling chef Dix Jenner, tries to find his way in alien, but not always foreign, Martian society. The book pokes more than a little fun at current Earth events, and I found myself smirking and snickering throughout.

Since no one has yet, I have to give a shout out to Todd – excuse me, Sementric 3 – the character that made me laugh out loud with his every appearance.

A fun, quick read, I highly recommend this book if you like humor and sarcasm.


5 Stars from Chelsea DeVries on Goodreads
Willie Handler is no stranger to writing books that make you laugh but the second novel from this author is nothing less than an out of this world story that will have you shaking the cosmic dust off your space boots.

Dixon Jenner is a thirty two year old chef who gets recruited by NASA in the year 2039 for a Mars mission that goes terribly wrong to his spaceship explodes and he is the only sole survivor.

Right away, he is high from a marijuana infused brownie and he has to figure out what to do to survive post-explosion. He meets two martians Bleeker and Seepa and from there they hide him from the head martian Cheytno to avoid anyone finding out he is from Earth.

What ensues is a hilarious story that leaves space for countless belly laughs over martians learning more about earth-like customs from an American chef from Toms River, New Jersey.

I was hysterically laughing by page three and I could not find a good reason to put the book down.

Handler’s science fiction is informative, clever, and loaded with quick-witted funny scenarios and one-liners.

It’s definitely a book with a brilliance not yet experienced on this planet but no matter who you are, human or martian, Handler’s writing will keep you hooked from start to finish.


5 Stars from Mica Kole on Goodreads
Irreverent and hilarious. The book opens with a slacker pothead finding himself the sole survivor of an exploded human habitat on Mars, too high to fully grasp his impending doom. He is then joined by aliens who have absolutely no social filter whatsoever. What results is a wildly imaginative romp of terrible sporting events, coffee overdoses, and lost-in-translation innuendo… all of which lead to striking character development for the main character, which is my favorite part of the story. Although his situation is constantly ridiculous, his attempts to bring Earth culture to the Martians results in him being responsible for the first time in his life. He feels so real to me, even in such an unreal situation. The book also abounds in subtle satire that, rather than drive and define the story, instead gives it depth.


4 Stars from David Jesson on Goodreads
I’ve been following Willie Handler on Twitter for several years. Having seen snippets of LMHtF, I was delighted to get my hands on an advanced readers copy.

Another reviewer has provided an excellent summary, so I will focus on a couple of other things. Firstly, Handler had taken the road less traveled and made the majority of this a book not only in the first person, but ups the ante by making it in the present tense. This is hard to do, but the book succeeds in keeping you with Dix through his voyage of (self) discovery. The other unusual aspect of the book, which I think deserves greater acknowledgment is that it includes an appendix – Dix Jenner’s Martian Cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying out these recipes, albeit that the brownies will be without Dix’s secret ingredient.

This year I’ve been doing the Goodreads Challenge and so been keeping a much more careful eye on what I read and what I think of it. I’ve read a couple of stinkers recently, but I’m pleased to say this is not one of them: this is a book that deserves to firmly in the books you think of when you list the great books of stories on Mars.

There was an early quote for a Terry Pratchett book that said that he was witty and wise. This could be applied to Handler too who has held up a mirror to humanity and shown us the best and the worst, as all good satire should do.

As I have said about another book this year, is the book perfect? No. Should you read it? Emphatically YES – although if it were a film, it would probably carry an 18 label, so be careful if you give it as a gift!


5 Stars from Gary on Goodreads
I received an advanced reader’s copy of Loved Mars Hated The Food and glad I did. This book is hilarious. As in laugh out loud funny.

The notion of a chef on Mars is absurd but it works and sets up many funny scenes. In this book, Handler has lampooned NASA, politics, Starbucks, sports science fiction, you name it. Not only is the main character, Dix Jenner, hilarious, but the Martians and their interaction with Dix is wonderfully weird and wildly creative.

If you want to read something unique and imaginative, this is the book! I highly recommend it.