Fiction Reviews

No Way

(2019) S. J. Morden, Gollancz, £14.99, pbk, 372pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22259-5


This is an excellent continuation of One Way that turns it into a far superior SF thriller.  In part this is because unlike One Way, half the plot is not signalled on the back cover: we, the reader, do not know what is coming next and so from the off we are heading into uncharted territory.

The action picks up exactly where One Way ended and so this novel is more of a diptych rather than a duology of semi-standalones.  Consequently, the reader really needs to get One Way and read that first.  Those into SF thrillers and mundane SF, with a good dollop of technology thrown in, will love One Way. Meanwhile the follow-up, No Way is entirely set on Mars.

Spoiler alert!  It is suggested you do not read more of this review unless you have read One Way. If you have not read One Way then click on the title link in the first paragraph above.

Conversely, if you have read One Way then read on…

Now, I am not going to give the game away and spoil No Way for you. I have already indicated that this is better than its predecessor novel and I am sure that if you liked the first then you'll love this.  However here is a tease as to where we are.

Frank is now alone in the Mars base he and his team constructed. The rest of his team are now all dead due to the machinations of the industrial company XO and their agent who was supposed to supervise the team. This agent, Brack, is also dead as Frank killed him.  The NASA astronauts are on the way and due to arrive in three months, so for once Frank's and XOs interests are aligned: Frank does not want to be considered a murderer; XO does not want NASA to find out what it has done.

As far as NASA knows, XO has sent one man to Mars to supervise advanced prototype robots construct a Mars base for them and that the robots were returned to Earth to preserve commercial secrets.  What they don't know is that XO never had properly functioning robots but had sent a team of suitably professional, long-sentenced convicts from the prisons the company also runs and had them killed once their usefulness constructing the base was over.

So XO explains to Frank that it has a plan that will resolve the situation.  However, as it is teased on the back cover, is Frank really alone on Mars! And we the reader will want to find out if XO's plan will work?

In the course of the novel we discover more of XO's long-term goals for Mars. Also, some of the detail briefly skated over in the first novel is explained.

This is a cracking thriller employing bags of technology (of which I'd have liked more and an extra double helping of science please – we have an increasingly science literate readership as Weir's The Martian amply demonstrated) on a world whose environment itself is lethal for the unwary, let alone if there are nefarious goings-on.  So suit up and ensure you have plenty of oxygen and power for the 35 chapters, 20 light-minutes from Earth.  In space, no-one can hear you coming.

Jonathan Cowie


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