Storm at Dawn is the follow-up to the hard sci-fi thriller, We Are Mars, that I read and really enjoyed earlier this year. Here, the people of the run-down Martian settlement, Rubicon, have to face off against further efforts to shut down and dismantle their home. Joining them are a fair few characters from Earth, who’ve been catapaulted in to play various roles in the conflict, but have to decide for themselves which side they want to stand on.
The book is slower-paced than its predecessor, but still an interesting read. It has a pretty large cast of characters but it’s one of the rare indie books that does it well: the characters are introduced progressively and all have clear, distinct roles in the story. The characters’ various interpersonal relationships (and conflicts) provide for a fair bit of depth in the storyline. I do think some of it is written a little clumsily (like in the first book, there’s a lot of “telling” us what different characters are like and how they feel), but the rest of the setting and story is interesting enough that this is easily overlooked. Like the first book, it ends on something of a cliffhanger as one threat is eliminated only for a new and more formidable one to emerge.
This is probably a 3½ star book for me, and since Goodreads doesn’t allow half-stars I’ve rounded up. I find it really stimulating to read this kind of tale about the challenges humanity will realistically face if we try to settle other worlds. There’s no faster-than-light travel or Earth-like temperate climates here, just hardship and life-sustaining engineering that’s barely holding together and the disinterest of an Earth that’s got bored of its Martian experiment. And yet, at the same time, Cheryl Lawson does a wonderful job conveying the passion and general affection the residents of Rubicon have for their planet – the way they look out onto the hostile landscape and see beauty and “home”, and are so resolved not to let corrupt politicians on Earth rip that away from them. Looking forward to the next instalment!