One Way by S J Morden

One Way by S.J. Morden

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I was bitterly disappointed by this book and though it pains me to give it such a low score, I really can’t find it in my heart to stretch to giving it more than a 2 star rating.

Initially sold to me as a cross between “The Martian” by Andy Weir and “And then there were none” by Agatha Christie, “One Way” follows a group of prisoners who are given the opportunity to trade in their life sentences in prison for a perilous one-way trip to Mars where they will set up a base for the NASA astronauts who will follow. Once on Mars, things don’t go as smoothly as planned and one by one they begin to die. Is this because of their lack of training, or is something more sinister afoot?

Firstly, although I gave this book a 2 star rating there are parts that I enjoyed immensly. I liked S. J. Morden’s writing style; I thought the premise was very interesting and I wanted to read to the end to find out what happened. I cared for the characters and I think if they hadn’t been written so well I would have given up on this book before I even made the halfway point.

The science in this book is incredibly detailed and though in places this was interesting, more often than not it overwhelmed the plot. I don’t want to keep mentioning “The Martian”, although due to the nature of these books it’s hard to avoid the comparison, but the science Andy Weir uses makes sense within his plot. His main character is a fully bonofide astronaut and he’s keeping a diary to help himself from going crazy and to work out how to keep himself alive with minimal supplies and no help.

The characters in “One Way” are not scientists and the plot, if we go by the blurb of the book, is supposed to focus mainly on the murder mystery. The incredibly detailed science, though interesting, massively slows the plot down and made me very frustrated. It seemed self-indulgent of the author instead of beneficial to the story and I think the book could be halved in length and be much stronger for it. For example, I was at least 50% through the book before they’d even left Earth. So much of the book was uncessarily based around their training when I just wanted to read about them on Mars as I’d been promised.

In a way I think the book has been let down by the blurb giving away the murder mystery plot. The first few deaths are wholly believable as accidental but because you know there is a murderer you put your detective hat on and I think I realised who the murderer was after the second death.

The last 15% of the book was action packed, exciting and exactly what you want from a science-fiction read. I read it in one sitting and it was the first time I’d sat down to read this book where I wasn’t clock watching and keeping track of how much I’d read. It was pure enjoyment and it made me very disappointed that a) the rest of the book hadn’t lived up to my expectations and that b) the ending was so abrupt and disappointing.

After everything that had happened in the book I wanted to know how it properly ended. Did anybody get off Mars? Did Nasa arrive? Did the last survivor (mentioning no names) end up dying through lack of supplies before anyone could reach them? So many questions, such an unsatisfying ending.

My last issue with this book is the confusing extracts at the beginning of the each chapter which track the development of the corporation responsible for the convicts extradition to Mars. These extracts were in the form of emails and written documents and usually I like this sort of epistolary feature in books but in this case, I’m still confused as to why the project was begun, how it ended the way it did and what the corporation had planned for the future. I would have preferred less coverage of the training and more background from the corporation.

I don’t think I would recommend this book particuarly, which is a shame because from the outset I was really looking forward to reading it. It’s strength is the characters and the way in which they all interact and work together. Unfortunately, in my opinion there are a lot of weaknesses which make this book hard work to get through.

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