Genre: Science Fiction
“There are eight settlers on Mars until the colony's psychologist walks out an airlock to die on the cold, airless sands. Emma and her crewmates, the next mission of settlers, launch from Spaceport America despite the tragedy and despite their own misgivings. They take a tabby kitten with them, as requested by the survivors on Mars, and hope to revive the shocked colony.”
“Kate Rauner (Hanover, New Mexico, USA) writes science fiction novels and science poetry and serves as a volunteer firefighter. Kate is a retired engineer and Cold War Warrior--she worked in America's nuclear weapons complex. Living on the edge of the Southwest’s Gila National Forest with her husband, cats, llamas, and dog, she’s well on her way to achieving her life-goal of becoming an eccentric old woman.”
As a young man, I’d have jumped at the chance to sign up for a one-way ticket to Mars, so this book fitted right in my wheelhouse. I particularly enjoyed the opening chapters, which started at the Earth-side preparation station with potential travelers confined for two years in a modular habitat that simulated the conditions they would encounter on Mars. Better to discover claustrophobic tendencies and personality clashes before takeoff, right?
Once on Mars, though, the story meandered and got bogged down in the day-to-day minutia of the settlers. I understand that living in an artificially maintained environment on a planet with no atmosphere would involve a lot of chores and attention to detail, but the activities became repetitive in the extreme. So much so, that the plot and characters became secondary. Moments of tension were few and too easily resolved. Potential conflicts were hinted at, but not fully realized.
And the cat? Well the cat made it onto the book’s cover but didn’t have any significance. That red-herring niggled at me most of the way through.
IMO, assuming the technical details are accurate (and they seemed to be, which is all that really matters for disbelief suspension, right?), this could be turned into an engaging story if it underwent a content edit.
Clean copy, solid writing skills.
Rating: *** Three Stars
Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words