One Way, by S.J. Morden

ONE WAY opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonize Mars. But the contract to build the first ever Martian base has been won by the lowest bidder, so they need to cut a lot of corners. The first thing to go is the automatic construction… the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll sent up to build it, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all. Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. As his crew sets to work, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspects grows shorter, it’s up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it’s too late.

A murder mystery set on Mars? Yeah, I’m in. NetGalley has been pretty bad lately, so it was nice to see a book in my wheelhouse. The science was hard enough to interest sci-fi nerds, but not so technical that it was like reading a service manual. It’s pretty easy for the reader to figure out “whodunit,” but watching the characters figure it out was fun to read. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I pretty much knew whom the murderer was when the crew wakes up on Mars. The writer tries to deflect, but I held on tight to my suspicions. There are these “classified documents” that adorn each chapter, and while they do dump information, I felt that methodology of info dumping and foreshadowing to be distracting and unnecessary.

The book is compared to Andy Weir’s The Martian, and although One Way happens on Mars and stuff goes sideways, they are very different stories. Publishers like to compare their new acquisition to a genre standard, but the fans know the difference between a murder mystery and a survival story. Publishers also like to tout things like the author was “trained as a rocket scientist” to lend credibility. Often, this is to get around some flaw in the writing or story. I live in a community that has an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where they literally train rocket scientists, and they’re about the dumbest bunch of entitled hacks I’ve ever met. This doesn’t seem to be the case for One Way, but since we’re comparing it to Andy Weir’s The Martian, Weir never worked as a rocket scientist, and had to do extensive research to get the science right – and for the most part, Weir’s writing was accurate.

But I digress. I enjoyed One Way. I knocked it out in two days, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. The ending isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it is satisfying. I look forward to reading No Way. Four stars, and recommended to science fiction and/or murder mystery fans.

Dr. Simon Morden is a bona fide rocket scientist, having degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. Unfortunately, that sort of thing doesn’t exactly prepare a person for the big wide world of work: he’s been a school caretaker, admin assistant, and PA to a financial advisor. He’s now employed as a part-time teaching assistant at a Gateshead primary school, which he combines with his duties as a househusband, attempting to keep a crumbling pile of Edwardian masonry upright, wrangling his two children and providing warm places to sleep for the family cats. As well as a writer, he’s been the editor of the British Science Fiction Association’s writers’ magazine Focus, a judge for the Arthur C Clarke awards, and is a regular speaker at the Greenbelt Arts Festival on matters of faith and fiction. In 2009, he was in the winning team for the Rolls Royce Science Prize.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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