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Review: Storm on Mars – Kate Rauner

Storm on Mars - Kate Rauner

Genre: Sci-Fi, Colonization

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About The Book

Something weird happens? Zeker swears it’s not his fault. An AI may be a psychopath’s only friend.

Zeker sets out to make a difference in the expanding colony. Gaining a place in the elite Tower Guild proves others recognize his talents, and the AI embedded in his brain helps keep his impulses under control, usually. But when his temper lands him in a lawless burg among desperate outcasts, and one special lady, he discovers humanity’s survival on the Red Planet is in peril. Will he care enough to save them?

Kate Rauner creates a unique colony in Storm on Mars. If you enjoy unusual characters, and an unexpected mode of terraforming intrigues you, buy the book. Discover if this near-future colony survives.

The Review

Zeker has just reached maturity, and has arrived in Cerberus City to start an internship with the Construction Guild. It’s not exactly what he wanted – his grand plan is to join the Robotics Guild and to build an army of self-replicating plates to cover the huge Hellas Basin, the source of Mars’ storm season, when everyone has to stay inside for months because of the terrible dust storms.

When he was a child, Zeker’s parents discovered that he lacked empathy for other children. The colony’s AI, Governor, has been working with him for years to help him change, but now that he’s an adult, he decides to turn off the AI’s assistance.

In the process, he becomes his own worst enemy, self-sabotaging his career path with his desire to get ahead faster and his conviction that everyone else around him is less intelligent than he is. He gets kicked out of the internship and ends up living on Basic supplies in a backward burg named New Plantitia, that is more like a prison ward than a town.

While there, he continues to work on his plans, sure that someone from the Robotocist’s Guild will save him. He meets Sienna, a down-on-her-luck woman who once aspired to make something of herself, and together they come up with a new dream to transform the transit corridors that connect all the settlements on Mars. They also become partners, a first for Zeker.

But will he find a way to blow that one, too?

Zeker is a bit of an anti-hero, a hard character to like. He repeatedly does self-detrimental things because of the way his brain works – he just can’t conceive why everyone doesn’t immediately see the brilliance of his ideas. However he does change, bit by bit, as the story progresses.

The beauty of Rauner’s Colony on Mars books is the way each one jumps us forward in time, letting us see how the colony is growing and thriving, and each showcases another difficulty the colonists have to work through. In this case, it’s the stagnation that has set in as robots have started to do most of the work, leaving humans free to pursue Vocations. In many cases, this works out well, but it also has its dark side, as seen in New Plantitia.

One thing I was looking forward to and missed in this one – the completion of the first public park on Mars inside an old lava tube. This was well underway in the last book – Water on Mars – and I was looking forward to seeing what a magnificent place it had become, but it doesn’t get a mention in the latest book. Ah well… small quibbles.

This is the last book in the series (so far – I hope Rauner returns to Mars once again sometime in the future). The author handles a difficult character masterfully, and although we don’t get to see if he ever completes his life’s work project in Hellas Basin, he does bring something new and wonderful to Mars. And his character arc reaches a very satisfying conclusion by the end of the book.

Another great read on the “Colony on Mars” series. Highly recommended.

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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