Somehow, author Emma Newman has not been on my reading radar at all. That needs to change. Looking her up on Goodreads I see that I have read a book by her previously, but had not been impressed. But a lot can happen in six years … my reading tastes can change, an author’s work might grow, a different editor might have a real impact. For whatever reason, this Emma Newman book was definitely a more memorable (in a positive way) experience.
The story: Anna Kubrin has arrived on Mars. She’s a geologist, hired by the billionaire running the Mars compound to do some studies of the area. She is also an artist, painting in oils during her free time. But Anna is met with frowns by those currently living on Mars. The need for a geologist is done, they assure her, and they are convinced she is really only there to do paintings for the billionaire’s personal collection. But because she’ll be using precious resources while there, the others do not welcome her.
Anna is good at fending for herself but when she is out getting photos and making sketches for some of her paintings, she discovers a man-made structure in an area that should be free of human interference. When she tries to report this, she is shut down, and the compound’s Artificial Intelligence seems to cover up what Anna thinks she has seen. When she wants to go out again, Anna is informed by the AI that there is a severe dust storm that makes going outside a danger. But when the dust storm lasts unnaturally long, Anna suspects that there are forces at work trying to prevent her from making another trip to the outside. The truth will rock not just her world, but that of everyone on Mars.
This was just a wonderful, fast but engaging read. I was pulled into the story immediately with Anna’s enthusiasm for arriving on Mars and her wide-eyed innocence at what she’d find there. We are introduced to the other characters as Anna meets them, and thy all stand out, unique characters easy to identify, even though our perceptions of them will change through the course of the book.
The plot rolls out nicely, though I do think that the ‘surprise’ can be seen a fair ways off and the moment I read that the AI warned of dust storms my reaction was immediate, whereas our characters were much slower in suspecting something was amiss.
The book does leave the ending quite open for a follow-up book, but what really surprises me is that this is actually the third book in Newman’s Planetfall series. There were only a few moments when something was mentioned to have happened, but I never suspected that this was a section of a longer series.
I enjoyed this a lot and really look forward to reading the earlier books as well as whatever comes next.
Looking for a good book? Before Mars by Emma Newman is a fast-paced adventure and a good deal of fun to read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Emma Newman
series: Planetfall #3
publisher: Ace Books
paperback, 340 pages