In his first novel, Lewis Shiner employs many devices common in science fiction. Mars colonies and re-bellious colonists, for example, are nothing new. Shiner offers an interesting futuristic weapon, but the situations of its use are familiar. Although nothing in the book is unique, Shiner does a masterful job of combining the elements to create a suspenseful thriller.
Shiner’s extrapolations are reasonable. Earths governments collapse under the weight of their own bureaucracy and indebtedness, and corporations are the natural successors. The space race continues to Mars but then is abandoned because of budget cutbacks. Private corporations try to salvage anything profitable from the space ventures.
Shiner succeeds in building suspense by shifting the point of view of narration among characters. Opening sections focus on the Pulsystems expedition, revealing bits about its four members and their varied agendas. Takahashi, for example, is shown as a “company man,” so the other three expedition members assume that he is loyal to Morgan and is on the mission to make sure that Morgan’s wishes are followed. Once the expedition lands on Mars, the point of view switches to the colonists, allowing Shiner to reveal the colonys discoveries without the expedition having to find out about them. Characters perspectives then are employed as needed to advance the plot but avoid revealing information that characters would not know. Through this...
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