At the end of a disturbing case involving red fever, a disease only found on Mars that makes its sufferers go violently insane, Denver Moon receives a message from her grandfather asking her to find him. But her grandfather’s been dead for twenty years.
I’m impressed by the amount of world-building the authors managed to squeeze into this novella. While not bogged down by exposition, you learn about the early settlers, the project to terraform Mars, the Church of Mars, the red tunnel, the red fever, and more. It makes the city feel lived in, old in some ways but still a risky venture in others.
Denver’s an interesting character with a past that’s hinted at in relationships and cases, and her transforming gun that’s had her grandfather’s memories uploaded into it. I liked that Nigel is shown as more than just a sexbot. While Navya comes into the story late, I thought she was a good addition to Denver’s skill set, and while they had to make up, it was nice seeing female friends.
There is a graphic novel prequel to this that you don’t have to read to understand this, though it does flesh out one bit of history that’s referenced in this novella. The story it is based on, “Metamorphosis”, is included at the back of the novella, so if you want, you can read it first. I have to admit I’m not sure how I feel about the ending of “Metamorphosis” as it references a marginalized community. Denver’s also quite racist (I’m not sure that’s the right word) towards the botsies. She doesn’t seem to have quite the same attitude towards them in the novella, so maybe she’s learned a few things between the stories.
After the short story, there is also a short preview of the next book in the series.
While I did figure out a few aspects of the mystery, I was completely blindsided by several others. The ending packed a punch.
Mars seems to be a hot topic in SF at the moment, and this one goes in a different direction, so it’s worth picking up.
Out June 5.