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Review: Hermit on Mars – Kate Rauner

Hermit on Mars - Kate Rauner

Genre: Sci-Fi, Colonization, Mars

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About The Book

The colony thrives, but a discouraged settler craves change. His mother’s call from her threatened habitat sends him racing to save her.

Sig’s robots contribute to the colony’s success, but his own life is falling apart. When his mother, living in a remote cavern with a group of malcontents, sends a plea for help, he’s eager to solve her life-support problems. He knows more about technology than a bunch of misfit miners, and probably more than the Hermit, their mysterious benefactor.

But he isn’t ready to face the deadly Martian mountains, or danger from the people he’s come to rescue.

Sig resolves to save the ungrateful prospectors, even if it kills him.

Kate Rauner’s chronicle of the first human colony continues with Hermit on Mars, an unexpected adventure across the plains and mountains of the Red Planet. If you enjoy relatable heroes tackling life on a deadly world, you’ll love this engaging story.

The Review

Rauner’s Colony on Mars continues with this third book in the five book series, Hermit on Mars. I’ll admit, when I first read the title, it seemed a bit claustrophobic to me – would the whole book be about a single person living alone in a cave on Mars?

It turns out that the Hermit of the title (who is not the main character) was a rebel, one of the original settlers who chaffed under the constant surveillance of the colony’s AI system called Governor, and left to create his own small colony.

Our hero is someone else altogether. Sig is blundering through middle to late middle age with something less than grace. His kids are grown, the last one about to leave his family kinderen home, and relations with his partner, Helmi, have grown strained. She’s a by-the book type, and is unhappy that Sig’s mother is living a life free of the usual societal constraints with the Hermit.

Sig chafes under the weight of hopes and dreams never met – a younger man has been chosen to lead the robotics lab, and Sig’s vacuum bots – an innovation in their time – are slowly being retired. He has nothing left to look forward to, only a sea of regrets.

He’s on his way to deliver some critical parts to the mkazzi – the loners, mostly prospectors, who live in the caverns underneath the Hermit’s home. Who is the mysterious Hermit? Why have the mkazzi never met him? And why are power outages worsening, threatening to send this pack of independent people back to the order and organization that they despise?

It’s been fascinating to watch the colony grow, from the original Kamp Kans to the addition of the District in the last book, and the start of Cerberus, the halfway point that by now has developed into a small town of its own. In Hermit on Mars, Rauner plays with themes of order vs. freedom, safety vs. danger, and we start to see some of the true Martians – people born on Mars who are shedding Earth ways and habits. I loved the tension between the colonists and the mkazzi, and there were moments of great beauty as Sig learns to appreciate Mars in all her glory, instead of just huddling behind the protective walls at Cerberus.

The Colony on Mars series is an epic tale spanning generations, and it’s a pleasure to drop into each book and see what’s changed. In this one in particular, The Big Project is being built to link all three colonies with a protected highway, opening up opportunities for more colonies along its length.

One thing I’m still waiting to see – if Rauner will tackle terraforming Mars in one of the final two books.

A thrilling joy ride across the red planet, I highly recommend Hermit on Mars for its gritty realism, alien beauty, and epic world building that get just about every detail right. Nicely done.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.

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