Title: One Way
Author: S. J. Morden
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
I went into this book thinking that it would be an atmospheric murder mystery set on Mars. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that expectation…
Frank is a man who received a life sentence for killing his son’s drug dealer. In a stroke of “luck,” he receives an offer to be released from prison in exchange for taking on a dangerous mission to Mars to set up a long-term colony. While he’ll technically still be a prisoner, working and living on Mars is a better opportunity than spending the rest of his life in a jail cell. So he agrees.
This setup, I thought, was pretty good, and as a result, the first portion of the book excited me immensely. Problem was, after this good opener, the story took a sharp turn toward slow and tedious pacing. Instead of immediately jumping to Mars, the book spends a great deal of time showing us Frank’s training regimen for his preparation to become an astronaut, introducing the side characters, and focusing on a character who’s clearly set up to be a main antagonist.
When we finally get to Mars, a great deal of the book’s “run time” has already gone by, and the murders mentioned in the blurb haven’t even started yet.
But they do start, at last. Now if only they were more interesting…
One of my major problems is that all the characters besides Frank are woefully underdeveloped, and seem more like simple archetypes than fully fleshed-out people. This is problematic because it greatly diminishes the impact of the murders, which are the main plot twists throughout most of the book, and that lack of impact made it really hard for me to care, or feel any real sense of tension.
The fact that I also guessed very early on what the “big twist” was going to be also brought down the overall impact of the plot, and by the time I reached the end, it was nothing more than a foregone conclusion. I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t surprised. It was just all very bland to me.
So, while I certainly appreciated the setting of the book, and the underlying ideas about a Mars colony, the obligatory evil corporation element, and even Frank as a character (sometimes), I have to admit I was left underwhelmed by this book. It just wasn’t exciting or unpredictable enough to make for a totally enjoyable SF murder mystery.