I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the author.
The Rings of Mars was a pleasant surprise. I do love science fiction (having been groomed to it at my father’s knee) but I all too frequently find modern science fiction lacking the elements of a good read. The Rings of Mars is a good read, even if I disagree with some of the science – or the lack thereof.
The story opens with Jane Parker standing in line, one of five hundred people selected from millions who applied, to board a shuttle to take them to a ship, the Sleipnir, that will carry them to Mars. It seems she doesn’t know why she was selected, and this was a one-way trip for everyone. Although not clearly stated at first, the colonization of Mars is necessary because, according to the group funding it, Earth has become too polluted to sustain life much longer.
During the shuttle trip and her arrival on the Sleipnir, the reader is introduced in separate chapters to the people who will become her friends: Danni, a native American; Pat and Kaitlin, two bona fide astronauts; and Mark. And then Jack, whose alias is Alex, clearly being sent to sabotage the trip.
The ship is huge with a cylindrical center portion around which three rings rotate, creating gravity for the passengers who will live and work there. The description of the ship was interesting, along with the segregation of the passengers into various departments for their work assignments (agriculture, cleaning, cooking, etc). Food and its supply, entertainment and diversions for the passengers, and the living quarters were nicely described, along with the weightless environment that some would work in.
Tension begins with the explosion and destruction of the space station from which the Sleipnir has just departed and the decision whether to continue on or abort the mission.
The middle of the book slows a bit as Alex inserts himself into the life of the crew with a bent for destruction, but speeds up as Jane reveals herself to be an agent sent on the trip to stop him and whatever he’s planned. Why must the Sleipnir be sabotaged? Will Jane be able to stop Alex or will the ship and its passengers be destroyed?
Some of the characters are drawn well and can be visualized, others are a little fuzzy. Jane is clearly a badass, and that role she fills to perfection. I love that there is a strong female protagonist, especially since many of the other women characters are weak and/or not very perceptive. A few characters die unexpectedly and shockingly and there are plenty of plot twists and turns created to amp the tension. In addition, the descriptions of the ship and the limitations it exerts on the lives of the passengers, along with the drudgery of the day to day work, are compelling.
I wish there had been more discussion amongst the characters as to why they decided to leave Earth forever. There would have been a richness added to them through those conversations. There is really no mystery to Jane’s pursuit of Alex, since it is clear why he is there, only her growing irritation of not being able to catch him in his various acts of sabotage. And I must admit total frustration with the captain of Sleipnir, who seems unaccountably unwilling to accept that a saboteur is on board.
There were a few other minor things that itched due to my interest in space travel. For example, the ship had windows, and I wondered how those, along with the ship’s construction would protect the travelers from cosmic rays and solar activity during the trip.
The Rings of Mars was an enjoyable read and should attract the attention of science fiction fans, especially those who like a strong female in the lead and good tension.
All in all, the author has done a very creditable job for her first novel. She has a real future as a writer and I hope to read more from her.
About the author:
Rachel Foucar lives in Perth in Western Australia. She is currently studying performance studies at Curtin University. She loves acting, music and considers herself quite geeky. The Rings of Mars is her first book
The author can be found
On twitter: @RachelFoucar
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachel.foucar
The Rings of Mars will be available on Amazon in February.