The subtitle of this book by Kate Rauner is “Colonization Book 1.” For full disclosure, the author is a frequent contributor to this web site. This book is her third “speculative fiction” book (if I’m counting correctly). You can see all of her publications on her Amazon page. I’ve read all three of the books, and I judge that this is the best. She has a sequel to “Glory on Mars,” which I haven’t yet read.
To get on with the review, the short description on Amazon begins with the sentence, “A one-way journey to Mars may be a mistake.” I’d say that summarizes the prominent feeling I had from reading the book. One of the characters talks about the emotional difficulty of living in tight quarters with a few other people and struggling to keep up with the constant challenges while “living in a culvert.” I think the book should be required reading for anyone considering making a one way trip to Mars. It paints a bleak picture of the living conditions and there isn’t much excitement unless something life threatening has happened. There are the hints of being deprived of things we take for granted. There is one unexplained reference to the fact that the settlers use toilet paper for the last time before beginning their trip that eventually delivers them to the Mars colony.
The book follows Emma, the main character, from the time she is on Earth making final preparations to leave on the third mission of the colonization process carrying. She and three others join settlers who had been there expanding the habitat by making blocks from Martian sand. Thick walls are required to protect the settlers from radiation. One of the eight already there, the colony doctor, had tragically and unexplainably died by walking out into the hostile environment without a protective suit. She had announced a delusion of “going to see a huge old oak tree.” The incident was causing the controllers to realize they didn’t understand the psychological stresses on the settlers. Emma’s boyfriend appeals to her to back out of the flight. Of course Emma decides to proceed despite that and appeals from her parents.
One of the most intriguing aspects is that the mission takes a kitten to Mars that was born on the moon. It is fun to read that the cat learns to cling to special pads on the walls while in the zero gravity of the trip to Mars. The cat often shows up to entertain by chasing bits of material floating around, scratching the fingers of settlers playing with him (no “cat scratch fever,” I assume) swiping at the tilapia that are being grown in a tank, and just acting like a cat in general. Adding a cat to the mission is a nice touch, although the cat depicted on the cover looks large and mean and the cat in the story is small and friendly.
The book is filled with wonderful descriptions of science and technology that will be required for space travel, building a colony on Mars, and exploring. It also has colorful descriptions of emotions experienced by the settlers. Frustration and anger show up more frequently than fear and joy. There are instances of satisfaction when something new is accomplished. I particularly liked the fact that the botanist is proud to show off her new cannabis plants; she had brought the seeds with the intention of using the plants to make a soothing tea for times when there is excess stress.
There are also moments of tenderness and hints of romance. The women have chips implanted to prevent pregnancy unless they chose to deactivate them. There is no sex described, but embryos have been transported to mars that can be used when it is time to begin populating the colony with children. One mission includes four women who can either chose to become pregnant with an embryo implant or “the old fashioned way.”
I intend to post a review on Amazon with a five star rating. “Glory on Mars” is worth your time if you have an interest in space travel, the possibility of colonizing Mars, or just want some fun and interesting reading.