Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Book Review: One Way by S.J. Morden

One Way by S J Morden tells the story of Frank, a convict whose prison sentence long exceeds his life span. One day, a mysterious visitor makes him an offer he can't refuse: instead of spending the rest of his natural life in the prison he's in, he could be trained to go to Mars, and live out his life there, building the first Mars base. It's a one way ticket, and legally the Mars Base would count as prison, but at least his life would be filled once again with achievement...

One Way is a novel that is possibly being slightly mis-sold: the blurb sells it as a murder mystery on Mars, with a small handful of suspects. If you buy it expecting a blue collar Agatha Christie novel on Mars, you may be slightly disappointed: the bulk of the story takes place before the whodunnit begins. However, that's not a bad thing: the book earns its way to Mars, carefully building up the characters and the preparation before delivering a cracking space adventure that doesn't have to hide in the shadow of The Martian.

One Way is a great science fiction read. In fact, its science is barely fictional and mostly current, rather than futuristic. It's also a great adventure novel, a great thriller, with an all-too-believable central premise. If there is a flaw, it's that the thing it's sold for - the whodunnit - isn't all that mysterious, once that part of the plot kicks in.

It's hard not to compare One Way with The Martian, as it features the same phraseology (talk about "the hab", hydrazine, air locks) and some of the basic premise (staged deliveries to the surface of the planet before the astronauts arrive, a botanist growing food inside the hab, Mars rovers, small nuclear reactors, and sand storms), and a comparable sense of peril as Mars is a more hostile environment than our characters are quite ready for. However, One Way doesn't go down the humorous route in the way The Martian did, focusing instead on a tense interplay between characters who don't have much reason to trust or like each other. The Martian is a fundamentally optimistic novel about people working together against all odds, and a hero never losing his sense of humour as he faces one challenge at a time. The Martian has no villain. One Way is a much more grim-faced look at how Mars might be explored by the likes of Jeff Bezos, written in a time where optimism is thin on the ground and moral bankruptcy and corruption are dominating global news. In One Way, everyone is a villain and there are no heroes. It's the Trump era's answer to The Martian of the Obama era...

A cracking thriller, compelling and convincing.

Rating: 4.5/5

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, good to see a good review of this. I've been curious!

    ReplyDelete