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3.0 out of 5 starsMurder most dull
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2018
I liked the premise of the story, which presented like the Dirty Dozen in space, on a suicide mission to build the first settlement on Mars. The author clearly knows a thing or two about science and technology as the design and construction of the site was described in extensive detail. I thought it was going to be a different take on The Martian, which it almost was. Unfortunately I found the science and technical wizardry very dry - and ended up skipping pages at a time - and couldn't empathise with any of the characters nor bring myself to care who murdered who. This will be a good read if you would be interested in how a Mars habitat would be assembled and made liveable. If you would prefer a story slanted more towards people coping with building the first Mars settlement, you might want to pass this time.
Reviewed in the United States on November 24, 2018
The overall premise of this book is a popular one right now, in fact I largely bought it because of similarities I saw with The Martian. Overall it is a decent book but I couldn't help but feel up until the 75% mark that I was waiting from something, almost anything, to happen.
The first 3/4s of the book seem to be scene dressing and casual kicking the can down the road to get to the point that we realize something is going wrong on Mars. But once things got rolling I was hooked, and I am a little mad at myself for wanting the sequel right away to see where this is going to resolve itself. I felt invested only at the very end when things ramped up and almost gave up on the book a few times.
My advice to the author would be to introduce tension much sooner, or at least some larger breadcrumbs to keep attention focused on solving the mystery/central conflict, or make some of the cooler pieces of side content (like those memos) more engaging and fleshed out.
I really liked this book for the unusual plot line. Good story telling and not full of stupid errors like some Kindle books. I couldn't quite work out how the characters could hear some things on Mars, and not others, so for me that caused the story line to limp along in places. But maybe that is true of Mars since it does have a thin atmosphere. I just didn't want to have to stop and think about it each time it differed. This book is a complete story, but leaves an opening for a sequel.
4.0 out of 5 starsA high tech, thriller, murder mystery, SciFi romp.
Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2018
One Way (Kindle Edition) by S.J. Morden
Take seven hard core convicts, place in an unenviable task, grate together, add a real grumpy boss, and then build a colony on Mars. Without dying. Yeah right, no problem. But the alternative is sitting and rotting in a jail cell until way past experiment, so that the Hell. Frank Kittridge is a murderer, and everyone else on the crew also deserves where they are at. But they do form a crew, and they do get stuff done, even when everything is set against them. Including the corporate supervisor that went along from Earth. As soon as they hit the red dirt, things go south, and in a hurry. Our hero has quite the inner journey to go thru, just to survive. And you are there with him for each step of it. It's not pretty, in fact it gets very messy, especially at the end. But it's worth the time you invest in it!
Straight away, from the cover, we can perhaps see who this book is aimed at attracting. A lone figure in a space suit, in a red (well, orange, really) sandstorm. From the start, the presence of the unexpected bestseller The Martian looms large here. I can see this one in the bookshop with a promotional blurb, “For those who are wondering what to read after The Martian…”
Which is a tad unfair, but I’ll explain more in a moment.
So: let’s deal with the elephant in the room straight away. At a basic level, then there are similarities between this and The Martian, admittedly. Yes, it’s set on Mars, and, like The Martian, is a story of solving a series of puzzles over extreme conditions and adversity – there are no rescue services available, so far from home, etc etc.
And yet, despite this, One Way is its own story. Once you get past the generic setting, it is actually more of a murder mystery in that most beloved of crime drama settings, the ‘locked-room mystery’, although here the ‘locked room’ is a planet the protagonists can’t leave, or a self-built module on that planet. The murderer has no escape, unless they wish to wander off into the Martian landscape…
Whereas in a traditional crime drama we’d have the policeman, the inspector, the vicar, the voluptuous femme fatale et al, all in the library of a country house, here we have , amongst others, the grumpy old woman, the person of colour, a reformed neo-Nazi that has found religion, the too-young and inexperienced geek, the teen sociopath and just one person left in charge of them all (yes, I know….another weak plot point, in my opinion!)
As our narrator, Franklin (Frank) Kittridge is set up as the ‘good guy’ of the story (even though he killed his son’s drug dealer), determined to see the demanding situation through. Some of the other characters grow on the reader too, whilst others I found a little whiny. The deliberately unpleasant jailer, Brack, the tough disciplinarian given the task of beating these miscreants into shape, was unsubtle and lacked finesse. There’s a lot of pseudo-technical detail given to give the setting some element of gravitas, and I am sure that Dr Morden has used his technical know-how as a scientist to make this work. Behind it all, of course, we have big corporate business shenanigans worthy of NASA or an Elon Musk-type business setup, where the emphasis is on profit over expense, which leads to situations that are rather silly.
Like a murder in a country manor, what is engaging here are the deliberately diverse bunch of misfits given the task of setting up a basic outpost on Mars before the real pioneers arrive. (Yes, the initial premise of sending convicts to do the work is a tad far-fetched, to say the least, but it is quickly glossed over.) Personally, I would have thought that such a mix of sociopaths, murderers and control-freaks would have been asking for trouble, but the plot tells us that the psychologists have checked them all out for their compatibility, so its OK. (Potential weak plot point…. ) I’ve seen Escape from New York enough to know that difficult times create desperate men (or women).
If this was a Hollywood movie, then the unwritten rules would dictate that, by the end, though they all start with their own individual motives, by working together they survive, forming the foundation for a future colony. This is not that movie, although once we get to Mars the pace picks up a little and I enjoyed reading of the challenges that the ‘chain-gang of Mars’ face (traversing the landscape, limited air supply and food, reduced gravity and so on.)
I found this problem-solving aspect to be more engaging than the characterisation. In terms of characterisation, there’s not too much detail given of the characters or their motivations, just enough to make the situation understandable. As expected, they all have their own reasons to kill, one being, of course, that they’re all in prison for doing something VERY BAD. This is rather like the Agatha Christie template the book is following, which rarely get beyond the stereotypes. We’re not here to get a detailed analysis of the characters, the plot is the thing. And as the lists of suspects gets smaller, as readers we try work out the mystery and see who is to blame.
My biggest issue with the set-up is whether relatively untrained people, all of whom have been locked up for BAD THINGS and who have barely communicated with others outside their respective cells in that time, can be trusted to get on with each other and get the job done. Real astronauts spend years being assessed psychologically for compatibility as well as physically and mentally before being trusted on a mission – who would risk those billions of dollars on such unpredictable variables, especially when profit seems to be a main motive? To be fair, the book tries to explain these issues, but to me the justification rang false, despite the protestations of the author.
As the characters start to be bumped off, more basic problems occur – how will this outpost survive with reduced workers, when everything, including the environment, is against them? There is also the issue that, as the people are killed one by one, the situation becomes less realistic and more unbelievable. Practically, and unlike in a country manor, rather than by one death at a time it would be far simpler to kill everyone not needed in one fell swoop by opening a spacesuit or a habitat to Mars once the work was done.
In the end, One Way is an admirable attempt to mix up genres, and play around with aspects of both the crime novel and s-f. However, it’s not perfect and runs the risk of not satisfying either fan. Sometimes the experiment highlights the weaknesses of both genres rather than the high points it tries hard to emulate. Whilst the story is written well, it is built on some dodgy notions that undermine the overall effect.
Like that other book, I can see One Way being accessible to those who don’t normally read science-fiction, but all its limitations pointed out by those that do. I enjoyed most of it, but there are issues which can make or break this one for the reader, I feel.
4.0 out of 5 starsAn excellent novel that grips you until the end.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 17, 2018
There have been a lot of novels set on Mars in recent years, some good, some bad - One Way is one of the good ones.
Taking the concept of colonizing Mars, but using a 17th/18th century twist. Prisoners. One Way manages to tell a gripping thriller of a story that is all too scary, in that it isn't that hard to imagine a greedy corporation going through these paces.
Told from the point of view of Franklin "Frank" Kittridge, a man serving a 120 year sentence for murdering a drug dealer - the novel flows from Frank's selection to Mars.
There are twists and turns that kept me gripped, although I saw many of them coming from near the begining - my enjoyment of the novel did not suffer from this.
An excellent novel. It just so happens to be set (mostly) on Mars.
The book is described as sci-fi meets murder mystery. Personally I think it's just sci-fi. The other side of the story comes quite late in the day and you will be expecting it. It is also (to my mind) quite obvious what is happening so not really a mystery to the reader. The story is very dark and I had my breath taken away a couple of times at the horror people visit on each other. I have not read anything else by this author before this book, but I bought the sequel immediately after finishing the book. It's well written and I have no complaints at all. Only one tiny thing jarred me a bit - I'm fairly certain pure oxygen environments have not been used in spaceflight for 60 years now? There are several references to just such a thing and I really felt annoyed about that. But the book really was excellent and I was gripped from start to finish. I also thoroughly enjoyed the sequel. For your context, I also enjoy the Expanse series and everything by Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton - that might help you judge my taste. Reviews are so very subjective!
Interesting. There is a bit of a murder mystery in here, a bit of The Martian and a bit of the Dirty Dozen. A group of “lifer” prisoners are given the chance to train as an advance party for a Mars landing. It’s a one way trip that might be better than seeing their lives out in a prison cell. So our little gang are trained up by the private enterprise to which NASA have outsourced this element of the planned trip. Their overseer goes with them and his character is so over the top as to not be realistic. On arrival, while trying to set up camp it appears that someone still has a murderous intent as, one by one, our plucky group of cons is depleted. There are some good points to this, mainly on Earth as they meet each-other and as they first land and have to build their own habitation. Once we get to the killing phase and the eventual solution some of the logic didn’t quite work for me. So not bad, but not quite enough to really stand out.
4.0 out of 5 starsA good entertaining read. Not too complicated, but intersting nonetheless.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 18, 2019
A good read, with suitable attention to the problems of existing on a different planet in a not-too-distant future. Added to the mix is a murderer among a bunch of condemned criminals who are sent to Mars to set up a base for future occupation. Towards the end it becomes pretty obvious who is the guilty party, but that doesn't spoil it, or at least it didn't for me. What I wasn't too sure about was how things would pan out right at the end(well, beyond the end actually), but I can't say any more without risking a spoiler, so I won't.