One Way by S.J. Morden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 rounded up.
Many will compare One Way to The Martian; and they would be right to compare a space book to another space book. Both are set on Mars, both include initial phases of scientific set-up or colonization, and both are focused on a guy who is hyper sensitive about all the dangers of Mars and just wants to survive. But past the obvious Mars, space, survival plot points these two books couldn't be more different.
Given the choice between life in prison and a trip to Mars (from which you will never return), what would you do? For our lead man and his fellow inmates the choice is simply Mars. What S.J. Morden is clearly trying to portray in One Way is a few key things:
1) It costs a lot of time and money to get to Mars and someone has to pay for it. The capitalistic approach to sending inmates to Mars is very, very interesting,
2) When you seemingly have nothing to loose do you really loose anything? Is dying on Mars (presumably for a good cause) better than rotting away and dying in a cell on Earth? This question and the concept of morality is heavily debated in One Way, and
3) Strong men are important men. Yeah men! Bring on the sausage fest...
The Sausage Fest *minor spoilers below*
You may laugh that a space book like this has annoyed me with a gender bias. And normally I would too; but the bias in One Way is sooo bad that I knew (without looking) that S.J. Morden was a man. Because no woman would casually discard EVERY single woman in this book the way Morden does. Whether he likes it or not it's super obvious that this is a sausage fest and he wastes no time in getting us to the penis party.
While it may be considered a spoiler; we know lots of people die based on the blurb, so I'm not tagging it, but the 'murder mystery' component of this book (which is weak at best) is so weak and so poorly done that the order of deaths makes no sense whatsoever. Morden attempts to rationalize it and bring up the exact thoughts I had about why it makes no sense, but we never get the explanation of why that order or why those people. Instead it's as though Morden thinks stating what the reader is thinking is enough acknowledgement to be okay with the plot, even if he can't explain the rationale... for the record it's not enough.
To call this a mystery is really, really stretching the truth. For me it was obvious from before they even get to Mars what was going to happen. I may not have known all the hows, who and what order but there was really only one outcome that made sense. Unfortunately that means there was no big twist or moment of wow for me. One Way played out exactly as I expected it to.
However, there was one thing that made up for this...
The Lead Guy
Our lead man, that we experience the story through (Frank), is superbly written. I cannot possibly express how well written he is. He's flawed, he's blind at times, he's sympathetic and he's easy to relate to. Frank 'solves' problems the way many of us wish we could; with a nonchalant, screw you attitude. And yet somehow he still has compassion and isn't a total jerk. Frank is written in such a way that you feel he's been wronged or was even justified for most of his actions. And this happens AFTER you know why he was sentenced to life imprisonment. It's difficult to make clear offenders f the law so relatable and likable; so full props to Morden for creating a character I want to revisit and see more of.
The first 100 pages of this book are fantastic! The next 100 pages start to wane and annoy (enter sausage fest). The last 100 or so pages are redundant as probably everyone has figured out what is happening and why by then.
The other important thing to note is that while there is a wrap-up ending to this book; there are major things not resolved. One Way is part of a series and you are unlikely to be satisfied by the ending without carrying on with the series. So of course the magical question is: will I read the next books in the series?
The answer: I'm not sure. I need to sit on it a bit and decide if my desire to experience Frank and his rough personality again overrides my annoyance behind the obvious gender-bias that Morden writes with. I think the answer is yes I would. Because One Way is written in a really fast-paced interesting way. I'd like to see Morden understand a little why some female readers (like myself) might be frustrated; and I'd like to see him be a little less obvious in his 'mystery' or disband the illusion of a mystery at all.
But, overall this is a decent read if you like the space cowboy type book. It's not as scientific as the Martian which some people may prefer. It's really a middle of the road read at the end of the day.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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