In terms of its scientific accuracy, We Are Mars is hard sci-fi. Evidently, the story revolves around a colony on Mars. The surface of the planet remains inhospitable to life, albeit staggeringly beautiful to those who appreciate it. Life inside the compound sustaining the colony is tough, as the people there face the challenges of limited resources, crumbling machinery, and a Planet Earth that has lost interest in their project, and as such has mostly eliminated its support.
Not only does the plot look at the difficulties of trying to sustain human life in a hostile environment, but it also explores the dangers of trying to create genetically-perfect humans, a pandemic raging in a small, confined community, and some of the psychological effects of having to live in such a controlled, disciplined environment – where even such things as relationships are banned, because relationships can lead to babies, and babies drain resources that the project would prefer to reserve for the “perfect”, test-tube created, g-mods.
It manages to do all this while telling an extremely compelling thriller of a story (at least until the last part where things slow down somewhat), which is to be lauded. This is a really enjoyable hard sci-fi thriller with relevance to a lot of the topics being raised in the popular science sphere right now.
For me it wasn’t quite a five-star book though. Mostly, I felt that it could have done with a bit more polish. There were a number of times that we, the reader, would be told how wise or caring or cool-under-pressure a certain character would be, when it would have been more satisfying to let those characters’ actions stand for themselves. There was one specific character who ended up being quite different from what we were initially told her character was like, in a transition that didn’t quite feel natural to me. The pace also slowed down considerably in the last part of the book, such that a big confrontation that you might have expected to be the climax of this book ends up being pushed off to the second in the series. Don’t get me wrong – despite these doubts, I fully intend to read the second in the series – but that was a bit disappointing.
Overall, even though it lacks a little refinement, the raw excellence of the thriller pacing (throughout most of the book) and the well-researched, superbly-detailed science fiction storyline truly shine. Recommended for fans of the genre.