Overall Jalapeño Score: 9/10 (4.5/5)
What would happen if you were an 18-year old teenage girl living in a loving, but truly dysfunctional family? What if your father adventurously invested all the family assets, including your college fund, and, obviously blew all of it? What if you still want to go to a reputable college and get the hell out of your family house as soon as possible? If you live in the space-age future, you enlist as an astronaut.
In this story, being an astronaut is not glamorous. You don’t get world’s admiration and prime time broadcasting from space. You work. You work hard, long hours, with little training, risking your life, and all of that for not that much cash. But Janet Pilgrim really saw no other way out of her predicament. She didn’t back down even when still at the Academy, her boyfriend died during the training exercise. Yes, she grieved, but keeping here eyes on the prize, she took off on a long commercial flight to Mars. After this flight, she would have had all the cash she needs to go to college and be a normal teenager, but it was never meant to be. Apparently, space is a dangerous place, crawling with pirates and marginal folk who don’t give a damn about Janet’s college plans.
The author takes us on a wild journey all the way to Mars, back to Earth, and again back to Mars. There is hardly time to breathe while reading.
Plot. The story is set in an interesting world with robust science premises. The pace never slows down, and half of the time I forgot to exhale. Some of my favorite parts had to do with the world-building elements of Mars – it’s society, the premise, and the promise of further adventures. I left Mars begrudgingly, hoping the story will bring me back to it in the subsequent books. I loved the author’s attention to the detail and how he described the ships and the crew. I felt like I had a good visual picture of what they are like.
I wanted to hear more about Janet’s Grandfather, a former space traveler, who I expected to come and rescue poor girl any time. Eventually I realized that it was a pretty good false lead for the reader, and I fell for it.
I also loved the events unfolding in Africa. The author did an admirable job using a lesser exposed setting in literature and bringing it to life. Indeed, I cannot think of another sci fi novel, drawing a connection between Mars and Africa. Brilliant!
Characters. Janet is an interesting character. We definitely see a character arch as she develops from a naive teenager, to a brave fighter, to a broken victim of circumstances, or so we think, and finally, to a strong confident woman, who after all that this forsaken trip dished her out, could take just about anything. However, it seemed to me that Janet was not fully in touch with her emotions, as if compartmentalizing her circumstances and relating the story to the reader in a somewhat removed manner, as if merely an observer, and not the direct participant of the events. This is common for the victims of traumatic circumstances of such proportions, but I am hoping that in the subsequent books Janet will snap out of her detachment and face her emotions.
I really grew to hate John for all the sick sadistic stuff he had done to Janet, and all the humiliation he put her through. Without revealing too much, I will only say that the ending was rather satisfying.
Other characters were outlined well enough to give the main character depth. Janet’s involuntary girlfriend/captor Rachel, for example, is one of them. I was a bit shocked when poor Janet, who so little knew bout relationships, was forced into a relationship with space pirate Rachel. Later I grew to appreciate what this plot line accomplished to define Janet’s character. Because of this eery plot twist, we saw Janet as both calculating and rational, deciding to go along with the unwanted romance, and, at the same time, scared and confused, tricking her mind into liking the abuser. This is a well documented array of behaviors displayed by the victims of sexual violence and hostages. In this respect, it makes sense, that even Janet is unsure of what Rachel means to her, and this is not explicitly communicated to the reader through Janet’s point of view narrative.
Writing. The writing is one of the strongest parts of the novel. It is so lean and descriptive, you’d be hard pressed to remove any words or sentences without hurting the narrative. It carries you from chapter to chapter easily, and makes you really appreciate what an incredibly successful debut The Mars Run is.
Conclusion: Overall, an engaging read with the world worth returning to. There is a small reason why I deducted one point, and it may just be my personal point of view. Also I want to note that it is not a reflection of the book, but of the way it is marketed. I refer to being upfront with the reader about graphic and explicit content. Without applying a value statement to this content, I must say that it is only a responsible thing to alert the readers to potential triggers. Recovering victims of abuse hang on a delicate emotional balance, which is easily destroyed, and takes time to restore. On the other hand, there is definitely a category of readers who will find this type of reading enjoyable, and they will not select this book just based on it’s description. This is a good book that needs it’s own reader, and bringing the right reader will lead to better and more consistent reviews.
This review features my honest opinion, it was not sponsored by the author or the publisher. The author generously agreed to provide a digital copy in return for a review without stipulating any conditions or deadlines.
Copyright 2016 Ellie Maloney