cover image Mars One

Mars One

Jonathan Maberry. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6161-0

Maberry (the Nightsiders series) falls short of his usual level of success in this sluggish SF novel. Sixteen-year-old Tristan Hart and his family are going on a one-way trip to Mars along with 38 other people as part of the privately funded Mars One project. The first half of the book is devoted to Tristan’s training, celebrity interviews, and appearances on the reality television shows that are financing the colonization effort, along with his interactions with his girlfriend Izzy, whom he loves deeply but has decided to leave behind. These scenes work individually but, in succession, leave the tale feeling rather flat. Things pick up once the ships leave orbit, particularly when unexplained malfunctions put the mission at risk, and Tristan realizes that the Neo-Luddites, a cult opposed to space travel, have planted agents on board. Tristan is very much in the Heinlein tradition of young heroes, levelheaded and highly competent, with genius-level engineering skills. But while Maberry handles the story’s conclusion well, some readers may lose interest before they get there. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (Apr.)