The Science of Fiction: Colonizing Mars

I just finished the second book in the One Way series by S.J. Morden.

It’s good, really good. Good in that way that made me feel like a super genius for knowing how the plot was going to work out, but even as it was working out the way I thought, I was totally riveted.

The author blends just enough science with character and plot to scratch a lot of itches for me.

The gist; using cheap parts and disposable labor to colonize Mars.

Morden really paints a bleak picture of humanities potential when seeking domicile off Terran One. It is an understatement to say it’s going to be hard.

Likely deadly- so why not make murderers and other convicted felons do the work for humanity.

In the narrative, it discusses how these characters are unredeemable, yet I found myself hoping the main character would win out regardless of the fact that he murdered a drug dealer in cold blood.

Maybe it’s just perfect aim at the modern angst on Morden’s part that he would have Frank trying to win over a corporate juggernaut.

The corporation’s original plan was to use AI controlled robots to do the work. But because of the budgetary restriction involved in being the lowest bidder, they lied and used bad thinkers instead. The logic being no one would care what happens to them.

And no one does when they hit the surface of Mars and start dying off like flies.

His method of throwing prisoners sentenced to life at the problem is absolutely brilliant and brutal. It blends the structure of the lowest bidder and the kind of stuff that already happens in a soulless bureaucracy.

In Morden’s work, humans are disposable if they have nothing left to offer the project. Equipment is only as good as it needs to be to function.

Why bother, is a through-line here.

And I think the answer provided is why not. Why not colonize Mars, because the worst that can happen is death and that’s going to happen anyway.

The characters in this book have nothing better to spend their life on than the grand adventure of why not try.  It’s Robinson Crusoe. Its survive because you can.

I think the author does a great job of showcasing the “why bother” of a group constantly at war with the planet for survival while needing the ever-present bubble of Earth to keep death at bay. The air, water, food or place to call home are all replicated Earth- without which the pioneers die.  It’s the irony of colonizing Mars; that really it’s just extending Earth’s comfort levels to a place unable to support it.

Some great thinkers of the twenty-first century have laid out plans for us to go to Mars and conquer the unconquerable. They want to wrap the mission with bubbles and make it the most successful mission ever devised. Elon Musk has pledged Space X is going to Mars and that one day he’ll go and live there the remainder of his days but acknowledged his survival is not guaranteed to be for long. And if he goes, he says he is 100% not coming back.

As a science guy, S.J Morden leveraged his education to be one of those people making the things that go beyond Earth’s orbit but instead found himself writing compelling fiction doing the same task.

His story is cruel and wild as it follows a team of seven lifers, read felons, who are tasked to build a colony on Mars. The set up had me thinking about the prisoners California employees to snuff out wildfires. These characters are just sent there with the idea they aren’t coming back.

Truly one way.

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