Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Literally the Best Reviews: One Way & No Way

One Way & No Way - S.J. Morden
Orbit Publishing
368 & 416 Pages

Today I am writing one of my extremely rare double book reviews. I think I’ve done it two other times over the last five years of writing book reviews. However, with One Way by S.J. Morden and its sequel, No Way, I felt that reviewing them together was the best way to detail this amazing science fiction series. I read them one right after the other, and now I’m eagerly awaiting anything else by Morden.

Ever since I started serious reading in 6th or 7th grade, old fashioned, hard science fiction has been one of my favorite genres to read. Over the years, I’ve read Asimov, Clarke, Bova, and Robinson until there was nothing left to read. Something about the genre simply draws me in. My head is in the stars. However, over the last decade or so, science fiction has begun to lean more and more into the epic fantasy side of the genre. With the extraordinary popularity of “Game of Thrones,” the focus on fantasy has increased even more. It’s been exceedingly difficult to find that hard science fiction novel on the library shelves. 

Just starting the first book, One Way, I realized this was exactly the style of book that I had so desperately been looking for. It was like being thrown back to my mid teens when I was dreaming of colonizing Mars while reading Kim Stanley Robinson. The allure of Mars is strong for me, so this pair of books was a no-brainer.

Frank Kitteridge is in prison in a near-future time after murdering his son’s drug dealer. Because the dealer was the child of someone important, right or wrong, Kitteridge was sent to prison for life, with no hope for parole. The prison was privately owned by a corporation that also won a bid to set up an advance base on Mars for the first colonists. Instead of sending people who could still be productive parts of society, some of the talented prisoners would suffice. If they died in the process, it wouldn’t be a huge loss to society, in the minds of the corporate board.

Prisoners in a hostile environment like Mars could bring one of two possible scenarios. In a Utopian world, it could bring a mixture of both. First would be they are tremendously successful, building the base for the first actual explorers of Mars to make their home. Second would be a total disaster that pushes back the time table of a Martian exploration years, and exposes the “evil” corporation for its nefarious deeds involving prisoners.

What happens in the first book is the convicts successfully land on the red planet and begin erecting a base in anticipation of the arrival of NASA astronauts. With extremely limited resources, the collected men and women utilize their survival skills from prison to keep themselves alive while struggling 140 million miles away from help. 

As the base begins to take shape, a seemingly unconnected series of accidents begins striking the advance team, slowly killing them off one by one. Is it the brutal environment of Mars, or is something more sinister taking place? By the end of the book, Frank determines there were no accidents on Mars, and he would do anything to stay alive in the chaos. Will Frank be the only survivor on a hostile world? Or are there more secrets in the shifting, red sands?

Frank’s stories continues in No Way. He has confronted the corporation that left him for dead and vows to have the base ready for the official team of scientists. He is determined to survive and get a ride back to Earth when that team goes back home at the end of their mission. But secrets on Mars seem intent on making sure that never happens. 

Even when the team of scientists finally arrive, not everything is as safe as it could be. Even the trained professionals find themselves at the mercy of secrets perpetrated by the corporation sent to assist them. Can they all survive and make it back to the safety of Earth? Will Frank be able to be a person of society once again? 

One Way and No Way by S.J. Morden are crime fiction set in outer space, specifically Mars. Morden takes the best of crime thrillers and science fiction and blends them together seamlessly. As I happen to love both genres, I ended up really loving the story told throughout these two novels. The science fiction part of it is the true, old fashioned science fiction in my opinion. There’s no magic, no dragons, and no deus ex machina. This is something that we cannot quite do yet, but will be possible in the future. To me, those are the best stories. I miss those types of science-fiction stories. I need to find more.

If you’re like me and like those stories, One Way and No Way by S.J. Morden are the books to read. I was able to read one right after the other, which made my experience even greater. I’m not sure if Morden will continue with any other books featuring Frank Kitteridge, but if he does, I will be the first in line. 

Craig Bacon would love to explore Mars and find out the truth of the “Face” once and for all.