Author: Paul Rix
I definitely enjoy an exciting Sci-Fi story. And it's even better when I discover a "new-to-me" author at the same time! The cover art and theme of this prequel novella is what first drew me to this Mars colonization story at first...and then the story sucked me right in.
The basics: The crew of the Falcon has been travelling through space for four months heading to Mars. It's a historic mission -- the first crewed mission to Mars that will land and then return to Earth. The crew is skilled and up for the challenge, and NASA is doing their part on Earth to make the mission a success. But, a last minute discovery of possible problems with the Falcon's computer systems might mean aborting the mission short of its goal.
This story pulled me in quickly. I love the basic premise -- a manned mission to Mars facing challenges that no other humans before them have faced. I like the characters. All of them face stress, pressure and extreme conditions (4 months floating in space, the stress of keeping a ship functioning and preparing to land on another planet, troubleshooting a serious problem mid-flight, etc), and all react differently. And the suspense and action are great! In my life time, I have seen space missions succeed, and I've seen missions fail horribly. I was one of many students who sat at school in 1986 watching a television screen ready for a day of space-themed class lessons when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after take-off. One minute we were excited for a teacher to be in space -- and the next we were utterly shocked. Even with top notch training, there is never any guarantee that a space mission will safely succeed. So many variables. And a completely inhospitable environment outside the ship. Think about how much pressure and stress just those concerns cause a human crew.... I think that's why I love sci-fi stories set in space so much. Humans pushed to the absolute limits of life itself....and what happens when fate pushes just that little bit extra. Survival or death -- it all hangs in the balance.
Great story! I like Paul Rix's writing style and characters. And, he had some surprises in store. Very enjoyable short prequel! Deception is the into for the Mars Frontier series. Can't wait to find out what happens next!