Before Mars by Emma Newman

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Emma’s Planetfall series, so I was pleased to score a pre-publication copy of this at an event I organise.

This is set in the same world as Planetfall and After Atlas, taking place roughly at the same time as the latter.  Anna Kubrin joins a Mars colony as geologist in residence, leaving her husband and baby daughter at home on earth.  When she gets to her new quarters on Mars, she finds a note that only she could have painted warning her not to trust the project psychiatrist.  Right from the start, things just don’t add up, and Anna is not sure about her grip on sanity.  Either that, or the colony’s AI is lying to them all.

All human activity on Mars is privately owned by Stefan Gabor (who readers of After Atlas will recall) and it becomes apparent there is very little actual scientific work going on, the colony seems instead to be for the benefit of the television viewers who watch the documentary series broadcast on earth.  Anna is mysteriously attracted to one scientist, but the star of the show takes an instant dislike to her.  Anna is determined to find out what is going on.

Like After Atlas, in addition to being a gripping thriller, this book is extremely angry-making.  The world is not a pleasant place and it’s easy to see how they got there from here. All semblance of democracy has been abandoned, corporations run everything and life outside the system is nearly impossible.  There is also a thread about motherhood and societal expectations and post-natal depression.

This is an important book, as well as a gripping read, a difficult feat to pull off. Definitely recommended.

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