I know that Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to be a “Hornblower in Space”, but I reckon that this novel should also get that description, albeit Hornblower was in the navy and the Captain in this novel is not. But the sense of it. The feel. It is so very much like that. The first few chapters provide background information and then the novels explodes into action. While I thoroughly enjoyed the entire novel, the second half really had me turning pages wondering what was going to happen next.
The novel is Hard Science fiction, meaning science fiction characterized by concern for scientific accuracy and logic. The moment when the scientific part of my soul first squealed in delight was at the mention of the solid core of Mars being melted by humans in their efforts to colonize it. If you have followed debates about life on Mars then you would know why. And yes, it is explained in the novel. The rest of the novel also contains scientific and engineering insights.
Generally the atmosphere jumps between adventure, the dramatic and the playful and this is something that I really quite enjoyed.
The plot is more or less a straight one that mostly follows two main characters.
The first is a talented team leader named Jaret McLeod as he progresses through a few commands and ends up Captaining the most advanced ship humans have produced and taking it to a newly discovered planet at the edge of the solar system.
The second main character whose path the novel follows is Nellie Writson, a Martian (human) scientist hunting for fossils of ancient local life. While doing her job she uncovers what appears to be ancient ruins.
Along the way we experience asteroid mining, life on Mars, aliens, interfering government agencies, some politics and the joy of seeing a heroic male having absolutely no idea about women (at least emotionally).
I think the major theme in this novel is the tension between science, business and government and how humans try to navigate this tension while also being true to themselves.
Funnily, I’m going to repeat here something I said about the last novel I reviewed: a slow burn followed by a massive explosion – so a real firecracker of a story.
J H Wear writes skillfully, dare I say unobtrusively, so that the reader is immediately immersed in the story. So, so smooth. The dialogue is believable and character interactions enjoyable.
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and recommend it highly.