Thursday, 22 February 2018

One Way.

I have read and seen that much stuff with regard to all things Martian I almost forget we have not as yet landed a man there. Remembering The Martian, the book and the film, is almost the same as remembering an episode of The Living Planet or some such documentary about life on Earth. It just feels at this point we have been there and had any number of scrapes and hi-jinks. So attempting to assert myself in a thoroughly modern stylee I pinch myself and remind myself that this is all ahead and still in the domain of the speculative, however convincingly done.
            And One Way is a very convincing addition to that sub genre of science fiction literature.
            In much the same way as the treatment of deportees i days of yore we are at it again in days yet to be. Convicted criminals, lifers buried in the system, are offered the chance to go to Mars , to prepare the way for the colonists and scientists to follow. To get all the hard dirty work done ahead of their arrival. Building the habitats, planting the seeds for articial enviroments, draining the swamps, so to speak.
              Our neighboring planet has a ferocious terrain. To say it is inhospitable to humans is to say the surface of the sun is hot. We can trick out a life on its surface, using our wits and the artifice that is a faux habitable station. No margin for error though, there is no mercy in space. To describe it as a Devils Island in space is to undersell the scale of  its dangers. you only draw breath there by means of the most advanced breathing and re-breathing equipment. It like you, has a long distance to travel even before it is put to use and should it fail its manufacturer is quite some distance away. There are no B and Qs on Mars, well, not yet.
               In the short bio of its author on the fly of One Way I learned that SJ Morden is a rocket scientist and a doctor, who also has degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. He almost certainly knew enough before starting this book about just what it would take to get life too, and sustain life on, Mars. What was probably less certain was if he could write convincingly flawed human beings caught in extremis. Would he be able to write what amounted to a novel about the survival of a bunch of anti-heroes on the surface of a world that would kill all of them in a blink of an eye and make them sympathetic and relatable? Sent there by a company who sees them as no more than a ship load of bio-organic tools developed to do a series of jobs they had been compelled into performing by the bad shape of their lives.
               And the answer to that is; yes. Yes, yes and yes he did.So much so he had me up to the early hours reading on and on, determined to find out just what was going on and how much in human lives and human morality it was going to cost us to send a disposable workforce to the stars. I think it is SJ Morden's first book and he has hit the ground running with this one. Despite its modernity it has a great boy's own adventure quality to it.And now that I have read it its my own adventure too.