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Finding Life on Mars by Jason Dias

By Robin Higham

Mars Courtesy: NASA
Finding Life on Mars Cover

I have been an avid reader of science fiction for the last 25 years, so the premise of “Earth was quickly becoming unsurvivable, so humanity launched this little group of people (our protagonists) into space” is not new. However, Finding Life on Mars was a truly new take on this familiar theme. I don’t know why I never before questioned just how nice and functional the technology and supplies sent into space with the colonists were in those other stories.

Often, in these typical science fiction adventures, the specific nature of the crisis on abandoned Earth is not even revealed… it is enough to be told that people had to leave, and they were able to make this nice spaceship, maybe even with trees and plants and rainforests on board. And then they hurry on to their happening-in-space plot. I have enjoyed many of these stories, and I don’t want to criticize them, but they took a shortcut in their worldbuilding. A shortcut that was not taken in the creation of Finding Life on Mars.

In Dias’ imagined future, the bleak realities of our current planetary crisis have been followed to logical endpoints— and the recollections of the humans on Mars, as they talk about the end of days on Earth, ring with a disquieting truth. On Mars they face the bleak reality of mushrooms and sheep and rats, of fluorescent light bulbs that will never be replaced, of a darkening cave producing less corn every year.

I was held riveted by the relationship between Jaye and her father, the pain and love between the Trueborn and their human families, and the bridge that ultimately had to be built between their different ways of thinking, of existing. There are so many more things that I would comment on, but I don’t want to give away any of the many little mysteries that this story served up along the way.

My heart is warmed by Pope Mary’s courage, by the Bear walking through the city, by the moments in the courthouse. I laughed aloud at some of the dialogue. (“No difference, except when the person’s from India and you guess India, you are right.”) I did not read the back cover before I started the book, so even the main plot conflict was revealed to me naturally as an organic surprise in the story.

Well written. Highly recommended.

About the author

Robin Higham is a novelist and environmental engineer who lives in Colorado.

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