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BOOK REVIEW: One Way by S. J. Morden

| 14 August 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: One Way by S. J. Morden

Gollancz
April 2018
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Science Fiction / Mystery

8/10

“This isn’t a pardon. You’ll remain guilty of second-degree murder. This isn’t commuting your sentence. You’ll serve the rest of your hundred and twenty years. This isn’t parole. You’ll be at all times under a prison regime. Neither will you get time off for good behaviour.”
Frank considered what he’d heard so far. “Go on,” he said. “You’re really selling it to me.”

One Way opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonise 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.

They’d die without air, they’d die without food, they’d die without water. The amount of power they’d used would eventually defeat their generation capacity, deplete the batteries and they’d freeze to death. The solar panels they needed to connect up were somewhere out there, as was the thermoelectric generator that was going to provide their base load.

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.

 

 

 

Morden’s debut has some serious vibes that call The Martian to mind, complete with having to make long treks across Mars to gather resources that they need to survive, with some murder mystery and corporate conspiracy thrown into the mix for good measure.

Though certain big events and twists might be predictable for readers familiar with the genres, the writing itself and the reveals of said twists make for an enjoyable and engaging read.

Despite the serious events (life sentences and people being killed off on Mars) the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, with some great one-liners, observations, and friendships developing between the members of our Martian chain gang.

“It’s pristine. Everything we do, everywhere we go, we’ll be first. Yes, we’re a bunch of convicts, out here on a chain gang: but we’re a chain gang on Mars. That has to count for something.”

Of course, the dynamics change once someone begins killing off the aforementioned chain gang. And with only eight humans on the planet, the murder-pool is limited.

“We ain’t got a prison cell up here. You tap someone for murder, there’s only one sentence. We’re going to have us a spacing.”
“I’d better be certain, then.”
“Boy, you have to do better than that. Cast-iron, copper-bottomed, one hundred per cent certified proof. I’m not calling home to tell XO I’ve wasted one of their valuable assets because he looked at you funny.”

As the story unfolds with our main character, Frank, going through training and preparing for the mission, chapters are interspersed with tidbits (in the form of memos, conversations, emails, and press-releases) that give us an insight into the planning of the mission, all coming together to paint a picture of one way a corporation might try to take advantage of Mars.

All he’d ever wanted was a quiet existence, unremarkable and uneventful, getting up, going to work, having his family around him. Now he was going to spend the rest of his life on Mars with an ex neo-Nazi for company, not to mention whatever it was the others had done. Murderers, some of them. Murderers like him. As if this world didn’t have enough crazy, they were now exporting it to other planets.

All in all this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining read which makes use of Morden’s own experience in rocket science, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more works by the author… especially the sequel to this story, No Way, due out in 2019.

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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