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.