One Way by S J Morden

Posted On 12 April 2018

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oneway1One Way is a book that I was really looking forward to.  A murder mystery on Mars.  Everyone’s a suspect and there’s no way to escape.  It sounds perfect doesn’t it?  I expected to enjoy this and in fact I did.  It’s well written with plenty of detail, some may think maybe too much detail, but I enjoyed it.  A good read, not as tense as I expected, but none the less fast paced and compelling.
The book is set in a near future where plans to colonize Mars are in the final stages.  The company undertaking the work have bitten off more than they can chew and final delivery on schedule is unlikely so they come up with a new plan  To cut costs they hit on the idea of convict labour.  They look at those convicts with no chance of release, convicts with skills that can be used and adapted to build a base on Mars.  They offer them a deal which basically involves a one way ticket to Mars and although, basically, this is little more than swapping one form of prison for another it has the promise of hope.
As the book starts we meet Frank.  Frank murdered somebody and is due to stay in prison for the rest of his natural life.  Previously Frank worked as an architect with experience of project managing which means he comes up as a potential match and as such he’s offered the chance to work on Mars.  With the opportunity to undertake work that could really make a difference in the future Frank accepts the offer.
The story then moves to a training facility where all the inmates chosen undertake rigorous training.  They eventually meet the rest of the crew they will be stationed with but at the same time they find out that their choices are not as straightforward as they first expected.  It seems like there’s one ultimatum after another and the rewards for failure don’t really bear contemplation and merely serve to act as a carrot to keep everyone in line.  The training is eventually complete, or more to the point the date of departure is moved forward whether the crew are ready or not.  They’re all set to depart for a one way trip to Mars where they’ll have to work intensely to establish a base in which to live and where their only company will be convicted murderers.
I did find this story very easy to read.  I really enjoyed the attention to detail and Frank is a very easy narrator to get along with. The whole premise in fact was quite fascinating and clearly written by somebody who knows the whys and wherefores concerning space travel and the like and that knowledge and understanding is evident in the writing.  Basically, it’s impressive and very readable but I did have a few things that prevented this from becoming a book that completely bowled me over.
I think my first issue was the lack of tension.  I don’t know why but the deaths had a fairly ‘flat’ feel – which could simply be because for the main part they were made to look like accidents and it’s not until the story is fairly advanced that foul play is suspected.  Secondly, we really don’t spend very much time with the crew.  We primarily accompany Frank and whilst he’s an easy storyteller to like it does also mean that the other characters are very flimsy and consequently their deaths don’t really have an impact.  Finally, for me, what was really going on seemed obvious and so I found myself slightly irritated that the crew couldn’t see it.  Of course, as a reader, I’m privy to information that the rest of the team are unaware of and to be fair I don’t think the author was trying too hard to create a mystery as such.   I think this was more about survival and outwitting the murderer.  Basically, I think my expectations when picking this up were maybe not what they should have been.  I think I was expecting this to be a much more scary read.
Admittedly that does seem a little negative so I’m going to end with a more positive note.  This was without doubt a good read.  Very intelligent and well thought out.  I found it really gripping and could barely put it down.  If you fancy picking this up then I would simply say that I found this more to be a story of survival against the odds than a dark and scary murder story.
Not what I originally expected but a good read, well written and with an open ending that could either mean another book is in the offing or the author is letting you make up your own mind about how things conclude.
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy, through Netgalley.  The above is my own opinion.

26 Responses to “One Way by S J Morden”

  1. Carmen

    The premise and execution, per your review, seem to have delivered. Perhaps they should have billed it as a survival story, as you said, instead of a mystery/horror kind of a story. Regardless it sounds like yet another take on The Martian. Am I wrong? 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is similar to The Martian – in fact I think if you liked TM you’ll like this too. It has plenty of hard sci fi just like Andy Weir’s book and it’s very entertaining – definitely more about survival which I guess you could also liked to TM.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    I’m looking forward to this, even though I’m seeing a lot of reviews along the lines of “good but not great.” 😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      Definitely an entertaining read. I read it absolutely no problem. It wasn’t the tense murder mystery I was thinking but tbh it was still good.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    It does sound like you enjoyed this one and the concept is pretty original. I would never consider it horror but could see why some might think of it as such. Great review!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I suppose some of the ways of dying out in space can be quite horrible – and scary. And, this was definitely an original and entertaining read.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Thanks for sharing your point of view! After reading some online comments, I was afraid that this might prove disappointing, and did not request it from the publisher, but now that I know I must somehow curb my expectations, I might end up enjoying the story if I’m aware that it’s good if not stellar.
    Sometimes a fun read is all that we need, don’t we? 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, like I said, I think of this of more as a survival story than a murder mystery – it’s definitely a very easy book to read.
      Lynn 😀

  5. sjhigbee

    I’ve now got hold of this one – thank you for a really detailed, fair-minded review, Lynn. I’m looking forward to this one…

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your thoughts.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Hm. I shan’t be reviewing it…

      • @lynnsbooks

        Really? You’re not reviewing it? I thought you had a copy?

      • sjhigbee

        Yes – I hadn’t realised who the author is, though. If I had, I wouldn’t have bought it.

      • @lynnsbooks

        Ohh, have you read the author before and not enjoyed the work?

      • sjhigbee

        Yes – I read and reviewed his books – nicely, I might add as he’s a good writer and he ranted about the fact I’d compared him – favourably – with another author. Moaned about it. I didn’t respond, but promised myself I’d never review another of his books. But he wrote this one using a variation of his name, which I didn’t discover until AFTER I bought the book. I’m reading it and enjoying it, and I’m not going to review it.

      • @lynnsbooks

        That’s fair enough – no need to rant about a favourable comparison. I suppose some people are just a bit more sensitive. It’s a shame though because it does put you off. An author I reviewed, who I won’t name, made a comment about the review I’d written having spoilers – and tbh it really didn’t have spoilers, I seem to recall I made a reference to something but you would only understand the reference if you’d read the book – so not really a spoiler imho. It put me off the author I have to admit – I can see he was just wanting to keep all his cards to his chest so the book would be surprising but I just felt really naffed off at the time.
        Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        That was what gobsmacked me – I’d written a really favourable review, mentioning that his writing style reminded me of Richard Morgan, only classier – and he puts a link to the blog with an accompanying rant about how he can’t understand why reviewers always feel the need to compare one author’s work with another – a couple of other folks joined in and next thing – they are talking about how unimaginative and stupid I am… I took the review down and promised myself I wouldn’t go near his work again – but the initials caught me out:)). For what it’s worth, I found it quite a frustrating read – very, very good in setting up the Mars base, but the thriller side of the story seems very much like an afterthought and all those inserts from various executives were jarring and utterly unnecessary.

        You are very careful about NOT writing spoilers – it’s one of the reasons why you’re one of my favourite review bloggers, because I do have a bit of an obsession about the S word… And, to be honest, now being on the other side of the fence, I’ve found I need to get over myself if I want reviews for my books – I’m just grateful if folks take the time and trouble to write about them!

      • @lynnsbooks

        That’s just ridiculous and rude! I mean, I know that some authors don’t like comparisons, perhaps they feel like it belittles their own achievements but, if I say that an author reminds me of ‘x’ I’m using it to appeal to readers who like that author. I’m not saying they’re the same. They stand on their own merit – like saying that readers of Donna Tartt will probably like DuMaurier for example. It’s not an insult.
        Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        I know!

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m kinda of the same mind on this one. I enjoyed it, but I really think the mystery and suspense part of the equation could have been done better. I loved the beginning though, with the introduction to Frank and his background. He was a great character, but the supporting cast was rather bland, so maybe that could have played into the lack of tension too. I didn’t care enough when they died, lol!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Frank was great – shame about the supporting cast, without developing any sense of who they really were it meant there was no impact when they were murdered. Other than wanting to find out what was going on – although, I’d already figured that part out and I’m guessing you had too.
      Still, I liked it and it was a very fast pace.
      Lynn 😀

  7. jessicabookworm

    Lynn, that this is not a dark and scary murder story is in its favour for me… being the big wimp that I am! 😀

  8. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Glad you still were able to enjoy it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is very entertaining and well written so no problem at all in terms of enjoying it.
      Lynn 😀

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