Top critical review
Sad and nonsensical
Reviewed in the United States on December 17, 2018
WARNING - some spoilers ahead sort of.
This book was frustrating and sad and then nonsensical. Not even close to Red-Blue-Green Mars. Not even slightly.
Quick basic plot synopsis: A generation ship takes around 200 years to get to Tau Ceti. At the time the story starts we are close to arrival. The ship and crew are beset with several problems. Mechanical issues with the ship and issues with growing various crops stem from what appears to be poor planning at the outset with not enough supplies. A huge them is "devolution", "zoo biology" and "island biology". Apparently about 2,000 people living in isolation for about 200 years causes "devolution" with the population growing dumber and sicker by the generation. The protagonist, a girl named Freya, is incapable of understanding the math her mother, the Chief Engineer, does routinely and that condition is pretty widespread. The crew is afraid they are getting collectively too dumb to operate the ship and also notices every generation is sicker and shorter-lived than the one before. This is frustrating to start with for a couple reasons. We know zoos swap animals around to prevent inbreeding, so too few branches on the family tree is a thing (insert WV joke here), but 2,000 people should be plenty. If this was not so, wouldn't the various Pacific Island nations be populated by subhumans? Then did we totally forget 2018 level biology? Between stored sperm and eggs plus genetic technology we have *RIGHT NOW*, this issue is a solved issue NOW.
Get past that and the next odd issue is the odd relationship with Earth. Sure 5-10-20 year round trips for emails is annoying, but the crew seems to have very little interest in the news from back home and they don't seem to even bother with trying to communicate. They do have a constant news feed they mostly ignore.
Then they get to their target planet and it pretty well sucks. Apparently probes sent out have only given them a very small amount of information, much less than we know about Mars today for one example. The planet seems to have water, mud, and constant heavy winds. They have issues like stripping threads off bolts because torque limiting devices on air wrenches are old tech on Earth but apparently no one went to Home Depot and stocked up on modern tools before they tool off on their trip and now they are someplace even Amazon doesn't deliver. Then it turns out that the planet is infected with some horrible fast prion disease and everyone down there dies or gets killed by the crew on the ship when they try and come back up from the surface. So....basic testing for safety not a thing anymore, no room for rats or monkeys I guess.
After much strife and a low level near civil war, the crew gets the bright idea that half of them will go to another nearby planet and the other half are taking their creaky old beater of a ship back home. So the planet half is doomed because resources they will need are leaving and the ship half is doomed because they will die of old age if for no other reason. They think that it is critical their grandkids make it home, but they don't HAVE ANY yet! The ones they would have would continue to devolve too, so the ones that get home would be sent right to the short bus. None of this makes sense. Then they read on their news feed a way to make zombie drugs and be sleeping the whole way home, so the original crew survives. They get home 400 years after launch, society is about the same, they find out humans cannot ever leave the solar system because some mystery force that keeps them healthy is only found on Earth, and Freya becomes a nudist hippy surfer chick. Really! So... forgot going anywhere and surf.