I picked this one at random from a pile of samples and was totally sucked in. It’s a first person narrative of an eighteen year old girl who emigrates to Mars with her family in one of the first waves of colonists/explorers and then actually finds martians… sort of.
The science is pretty good, even for the martians (hence the “sort of”), and it was a lot of that minutiae that drew me in. No, it’s not page after page of technical exposition. Rather, it shows a lot of the “boring” day to day business of riding a space elevator up to an interplanetary ship, making the trip across the void, landing, and living in the harsh conditions of another planet. I suppose I liked it for many of the same reasons I enjoyed the daily details of Nathan Lowell’s Solar Clipper series, i.e. it made the fantastic life of space travel feel real without making it mundane. By the time we got to the “martians”, I was completely drawn into her personal world.
This book also comes close to one of my favorite kinds of conflict, where the bad guy isn’t really a bad guy, just that he is making decisions from his own values, and those decisions and actions end up conflicting with our hero’s goals. There are two bad guys in this. The first is a local administrator who is doing her best to protect the Mars outpost and humanity at large and who makes some bad calls in the process. The second is a distant group that is acting to protect itself at any cost with no apologies to those who get in the way.
In the end, heroes are heroic, bad guys are thwarted, and sacrifices are noble. It finishes with a semi-open happy ending, and I believe there are at least two sequels, so I may be looking at those soon.