Coming in 2018 …
A lonely pregnant woman stumbles across the red sands of Mars toward an unknown future. The first colonists to Mars, desperate for survival, deal with a polite alien and a U.S. president sixty years dead.
Solid character development, nonstop action, and more than a few jaw-dropping plot twists make this impossible to put down —a highly appealing blend of Andy Weir’s The Martian and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
— BlueInk Reviews (starred review)
Logan Styles, president of the United States, starts a project to colonize Mars as a panacea for an ailing nation in the grip of a depression. To punctuate his commitment he pledges to become the first president to visit space. As he organizes his program, political enemies array against him. Complicating his efforts, he finds himself in strange dream conversations with a man named Allen, causing him to question his own sanity. After he launches into orbit, his political foes stage a coup d’état and launch another space shuttle to capture and kill him. He saves his crew by sacrificing himself, but as he prepares to die in space he finds himself in a final conversation with Allen.
Sixty years later the long-delayed first colonists to Mars—two married couples—orbit high above the planet awaiting an opportunity to land and occupy their new home, Tharsis Cradle. A disaster strands them, depletes their life support, and cuts off communication with Earth. Death inevitable, they plan suicide, but their plans go awry in a strange way involving Allen and sixty-years-dead Logan. They come to regard Allen as a benevolent god, trusting their fate to him, but soon learn it is trust misplaced. The colonists descend to Mars, but a disaster leaves only one of them, Alyssa—a lonely, pregnant woman—to stumble towards camp in the face of incredible odds against survival.
Tony Taylor weaves vivid characters and realistic science and engineering details of Mars colonization into a larger surrealistic perspective involving aliens, the Fermi Paradox, death, resurrection, and philosophical speculations on consciousness and the direction of evolution. He even manages to leaven the story with wry whimsical humor throughout.
A long, long time ago—about fourteen billion years more or less—the universe banged into existence. Immediately—commensurate with the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics—our baby universe began dividing into innumerable sister universes weaving diverging courses through meta-time. One of these would become the home of The Author.
This narrative is not about that universe or another containing The Author’s Harris Mitchel and an asteroid named B, nor a somewhat different one containing pilot Steve Mylder who counted air combat missions in a brutal war. It is about a universe housing a president that Harris once met.
In that baby universe, in the beginning, great clouds of gas collided, mixed, collapsed, and gave birth to galaxies and stars. Stellar systems formed consisting of mother stars orbited by broods of loving children: planets, asteroids, satellites, comets, and other odd siblings. In some of these, life ignited and began a long journey towards an unknown end, obeying Evolution’s holy trinity of Replication, Variation, Selection in a never-ending struggle to make order from chaos and bring forth consciousness from unconsciousness—thus continuing an eternal war with the great Satan, Entropy, who strives to make disorder from order.
A long time ago—about one billion years more or less—in one of these stellar systems in one of these galaxies, this evolutionary course resulted in the ignition of consciousness; a species came into existence able to control and direct its environment. It expanded relentlessly outward, filling all available evolutionary niches—to the nearest planets, to the nearest stars, to the nearest arms of the galaxy and beyond.
A while ago—about one million years more or less—another species in another stellar system also leapt into consciousness and began exploiting its technological prowess to expand into every here and there of its birth planet, eventually casting an avaricious eye on its neighbors.
A short time ago—about one thousand nine hundred fifty years after the birth of a significant religious figure—a member of these later developed beings, a physicist named Enrico Fermi, while lunching outdoors with his colleagues on a warm sunny day, raised his gaze to the sky and shrugged with upturned palms, exclaiming in puzzlement, “Where is everybody?”
He meant, presumably—with all the possibilities of advanced beings long preceding his own species—Where are all those alien beings? Why haven’t they overrun this corner of the galaxy, paving it over with a galactic parking lot … and sadly, paving over his own less advanced and defenseless sapient civilization?
Where is everybody? asked Enrico. There was no answer. For this devilishly speculative question, he was honored in the naming of a paradox—namely The Fermi Paradox.
An even shorter time ago, a leader of these less advanced and defenseless sapient beings—a president—announced a program to colonize a nearby sibling planet. The planet was named after Ares, a god of war also known as Mars.
Yesterday—meaning an infinitesimal time ago, geologically speaking (or, more appropriate to a planet named after Ares, areologically speaking)—one of the three colossal Mars volcanoes riding atop a gigantic uplift named Tharsis Bulge awoke after a brief snooze of a hundred million years, more or less, and began streaming long-buried gasses into the planet’s sparse atmosphere. The first colonists-to-be gazed down in awe upon this curious spectacle from an orbit far above.