Top critical review
Interesting what the author expected to be critiqued on
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2018
There is a point in Tom Cruise's remake of "Vanilla Sky" where if the movie had ended, it would be have been a wonderfully ambiguous, "Inception"-like DIY outcome. Instead, the movie kept going, battering the viewer about the head until you could not but help but get the message.
Cawdron does similar with the Epilogue of this novel, giving us a preachy tirade by protagonist/astronaut Cory Anderson that just goes on and on. It could have ended with a subtle nudge to the point he is making, but instead, we're battered about the head and when it does finally end, I was more thankful than disappointed there was no more to read. In the afterward, Cawdron notes where he expects to be picked apart in reviews, but the Epilogue was not mentioned, which just goes to prove his view that we all carry biases we are not even aware of.
Anyway, this starts out on Mars, and I reckon many readers will be tuning in a 'The Martian'-lite vibe as they piggyback on Anderson's view of how arduous it is to survive on the red planet. Then it literally launches into orbit and the path deviates hugely from anything Weir apparently thought of, tipping into a trippy story that even Anderson struggles to keep straight, and he's living it.
The cast is small, but because it is POV Anderson, we don't get as good a read on the other characters. Their motivations and actions are always through Anderson's mental/emotional filter, but they are by no means ciphers, just not as developed as he is.
I enjoyed the technical aspects of this novel, including the detailed orbital mechanics that the author thought would trigger feedback. Anderson throws fact upon fact at you, as he talks his way through every situation, sometimes out loud, mostly just to himself (us). He knows a lot of stuff, and I appreciate the research piled into this novel, which is generally presented in a very accessible fashion.
And I especially liked the dilemma that Anderson finds himself in. Here is a secret worth the plot pivot. No spoilers, but most "big reveals" in sci-fi novels are actually ho hum affairs, that generally don't support all the to-ing and fro-ing that goes into getting you there.
So, this is an interesting, technically minded book that seems straightforward until quite a way into the story. Then it is a mentally challenging ride, with an Epilogue that I found too preachy, but you might not. I think a third person perspective would have helped with the trippy bit, which needs careful reading to work through. I'd likely buy a sequel, but as there is no obvious scaffolding that directly leads to one - well one that would make sense within the time frame of his story - I guess this is our first and only Cory Anderson outing.