By: Emma Newman
*Netgalley kindly provided me with a copy but that has not impacted my review.
What if they are out to get you? What if they are out to get you even on Mars? I rarely request books from Netgalley but this one just seemed so up my reading alley right now that I had to give it a go. Our main character Anna is a geologist and artist whose sent to the base on Mars in order to paint pretty pictures for her boss to sell. We are thrown into it pretty much from the minute she arrives from her solo flight.
This is a very middle of the road book. Great premise and mystery. I liked how Anna worked with what she had and what she knew to solve things even though there was a good argument she was essentially losing it.
I liked the technological aspect not just of the Mars mission or the AI that runs the base (I did think his human avatars were really well done creepy but in a good way) but of this vision of the future. Everyone is chipped and can interface with everything. Everything is seriously corporatized, including Mars, and this brings up a whole lot of interesting questions.
Anna’s plight on Mars brings up a lot of memories of her father (including a gruesome one) and the question of who are you giving up so much space in your head to and why can you trust them just because their are laws against doing something that no one can stop until its too late.
So what was off?
I wasn’t big on Anna. A lot of this story is told through her memories of her childhood and her marriage and since she kissed the base Doctor pretty much the second she was alone with him I couldn’t help spend a lot of the story doubting those memories as nothing but her making excuses. In fact I thought there were little things that were really off about some of the human behavior on the base.
Now credit where credit is due a lot of the ending actually made this work. But it was retroactive for me. The pacing was off and I felt like I was being told things as much as anything else and while the reveal and everything worked it combined to make the characters exceedingly hard for me to connect to and, in some cases, like.
There’s also a big reveal at the end that I feel like it was… *shrug.* It should have carried more emotional impact instead I felt like well, she didn’t really like them anyway so bow tied and all that.
Okay this might be nitpicking: A+ for having a binary character but I have to admit the use of hir and ze as replacements for the usual in that characters case took me a while to get used to and I never really liked it, as a reader, but I’m not sure how else you would get the point across.
I didn’t know when I requested it that Before Mars is the third book in a series. I was able to follow along with it fine and I don’t think I missed anything- separate characters- but perhaps it would have had more emotional heft if I had read the rest of the series.
Recommend: 50/50. If you like a good is she losing it or not mystery, or this is the cool stuff we get to play with in the future, this may be for you. Or give a go to the first in the series. There was a ton of potential here it just fell flat for me.