One Way by S J Morden

a review by Ant, in the genre(s) Science Fiction. Book published by Gollancz in April 2018

People have been imagining life on Mars for hundreds of years but it seems to becoming an increasingly popular destination at the moment. We've got a growing number of films, games, VR "experiences" and of course books. NASA has it's own "Journey to Mars" program of sending humans there in the 2030's while SpaceX has a much grander plan - having a viable, permanent and self-sustaining colony on the red planet within the next 50 - 100 years.

It all has to start somewhere, and One Way describes the first efforts to build a colony there. The twist? This colony isn't being build by highly trained and gifted Astronauts (or Cosmonauts) or expensive and inflexible robots, but by hardened, life serving criminals. This isn't exactly how NASA envisaged the base being constructed when they gave the contract to Xenosystems though - which means everything is being kept hush-hush. Only problem is that real NASA astronauts are due to visit shortly after the base is ready and won't be expecting a bunch of cons running around. The odds of survival for those cons on the red planet aren't exactly high anyway though.

One Way is a bit of a blend between murder-mystery thriller and colonisation story - viewed from the perspective of one of the cons, Frank. Frank got a life sentence after killing a drug dealer to protect his son. Other than his severe parental issues, he seems like a stand-up, likeable guy - even if he is a little easy to manipulate. It doesn't take much for him to agree to go on a one-way trip to Mars. He's joined by six other inmates and a minder whose job is to prevent them killing each other until the base is ready.

The bits that do deal with the science behind building the base are described well and seem plausible, as do the descriptions of the red planet and it's many, many ways it can kill you. Given how delicate life on Mars is, it's easy to imagine a murderer getting away with, well murder, for some time.

The pace is swift and the location helps to create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere as the bodies begin pilling up. It's a clever idea to use lifer criminals as slaves to build the first Mars base. Of course these decisions are purely financial but given our increasingly commercialised existence it seems entirely believeable that a private company would do this.

The actual murder-mystery is entertaining, if predictable, I guessed the killer right at the beginning and was a little disappointed there wasn't some twist proving me wrong at the end. That didn't prevent me enjoying the book in the slightest though.

One Way is a tense and dramatic thriller that entertains from beginning to end.

Written on Monday 9th April 2018 by .

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One Way, a novel by S J Morden

Book Details

  • One Way
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • ISBN: 978-1473222564
  • Published:
  • Pages: 336
  • Format reviewed: Paperback
  • Review date: April, 2018
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: