Review – One Way

Posted November 8, 2018 by Nicky in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of One Way by S.J. MordenOne Way, S.J. Morden

One Way was, in the end, too like a grimmer version of Death of a Clone for me to really enjoy. Even though I’m fairly sure neither was trying to copy the other, the similarities made One Way less enjoyable, mostly because it was the second one I read, and partly because it was rather darker in tone. I’ve seen comparisons with The Martian, but again, I think it was darker in tone than that, and less fascinated by the technical minutiae.

The book follows Frank, a convict who killed his son’s drug dealer in a pre-meditated fashion, and went to prison for it. He’s offered a way out by a company who are trying to build a base for NASA on the moon: he and several other convicts must ship out to Mars, there to spend the rest of their lives, and build the base. It’s cheaper than robot labour for them, and it’s a way out for Frank and the other convicts, so of course they say yes. They go through some gruelling training, but only six months of it (which should probably be a hint right there about how expendable they are, but they don’t seem to twig that fact), and then off they go.

Once they’re woken up from cryosleep on the other end, though, people start to die. As each team member finishes their job and becomes expendable, there’s an equipment failure, a weird leak in the hab… and there’s Frank, slowly realising that these deaths really aren’t accidents.

It’s not a cast particularly designed to arouse sympathy: they’re not out and out bastards in everything they do, but you know that each of them killed people, and each of them is capable of some terrible things. The camaraderie between them is fragile, and so is the reader’s willingness to root for them. In the end, I was mostly sitting back to see how each one of them died and when, without really caring much about the outcome. Not ideal!

It’s not a bad idea for a novel, but peopled with such generally terrible people, it’s not something I found particularly compelling either. And I never believed in the promise of a second chance that Frank was offered: it was too obviously too good to be true. That left me feeling like it was just going through the motions, and I was glad to be done.

Rating: 2/5

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8 responses to “Review – One Way

  1. I guess this is an example of the “likeable character” problem you blogged about the other day. I enjoyed this novel, because I didn’t mind that the main characters were convicts and killers. I find convicts easier to like than, say, soldiers, who kill more people but get given a free pass by society for their atrocities. So “murderers in space” is more palatable than “military SF” for my particular palate. It also helps that most of the convicts didn’t seem evil to me. Flawed, and with a history of doing bad things, but mostly not sadistic or malevolent at the time of the novel. They might have only fragile, paper-thin trust in each other, but that seemed perfectly in line with prison-conditioned people, based on other movies, TV shows, books set in prisons.
    In comparion, I’m reading a Firefly-inspired series of space opera novels at the moment, full of characters being gooey and kind to each other, and yet they don’t hesitate to trick hundreds of pirates into flying to their deaths (nor do they think twice about killing off the survivors). I’m finding the gooey fluffy space opera more morally objectionable than One Way, as the lives of strangers have zero value in the former, while One Way doesn’t give its characters a free pass for the blood on their hands.
    Robert recently posted…Review: The Wrong Stars by Tim PrattMy Profile

    • Honestly, though you’ve latched onto it, the unlikeable characters weren’t my biggest issue in enjoying this. And I didn’t say that the characters seemed evil to me (in fact, I explicitly said they didn’t).

      The fact that the plot is very much like Death of a Clone was by far the bigger issue.

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