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Red Dust & Raindrops: Death on Mars is an enjoyable sci-fi story about man’s first mission to Mars. It’s fast-paced, with plenty of twists and turns, and naturally, things don’t go as planned. I received a physical copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. While the story was somewhat enjoyable, I did not fall in love with it for a couple of reasons. You can read the rest of the review to find out why, or click here to skip right to the end if you want the short version.
K. E. Heaton was born and raised in the North West of England. His life experiences inspire the books he writes and his yearning to travel the world (and perhaps space as well?). This also shows in Red Dust & Raindrops, where Heaton eloquently describes the landscapes of Mars and certain places on Earth.
Genre: drama, crime, sci-fi | Audience: Adult | Publisher: self-published
As I said, the story is about man’s first mission to Mars, in the not so distant future. A team is assembled, and they’re off with a rocket to go on their journey. Things go wrong very quickly when it turns out one of the crew members is not who they’re meant to be. And then when they finally arrive on Mars, things start to escalate quickly.
So, the story doesn’t just feature the first mission to Mars, but also the second and the third. It wasn’t exactly what I expected from the book, based on the title. I was expecting more of a Marsian-like survival against the elements type of novel, but it wasn’t that. It’s part of it, but there’s a lot more going on. In fact, I’d argue there’s too much going on. There seems to be a lack of focus, and the story goes very fast. The last mission to Mars is even just a mention on the page, even though I would’ve liked to see the confrontation happen. I’d say the largest part of the story is more of a family drama combined with a crime, and Mars is just the setting for it.
What I did like about the story, once I realized it wasn’t going to be a man-vs-elements story, was that there were some nice twists and turns. I didn’t always see them coming, and some were quite shocking.
Not a fan of the character-building in this one. We have the crew that goes to Mars, with the most notable people being: Tom Brady, Frank Schmidt, and Jenny Brady. Tom Brady is the Captain, so the leader of the mission, with Jenny being his daughter who also works for WASA (the books version of NASA), and Frank is the pilot who is left behind in the space-ship, to wait for the others to return from Mars.
None of the characters felt fully developed for me. I suppose the one that comes closest is Frank because he’s more or less the main protagonist for about three-quarters of the book. He seems the most realistic, and I have the most empathy for him. He does have to deal with some pretty heavy stuff.
A nuisance was that all the female crew members were always described as being beautiful, with large breasts and tiny waist—total bomb-shells. Oh, and they are also accomplished scientists, fyi. I don’t think it’s okay to describe women in this way, especially in a non-erotic novel, when it takes away from the fact that they are smart and accomplished women. It’s also just not realistic. Not all the men in the crew are Adonises with rock-hard abs, bedroom eyes, and a handsome face, so I don’t see why all the women need to be sexbombs.
I think this was probably the best part of the book. I quite liked the descriptions of Mars, and it really did give me the feeling I was on Mars. I’m not sure if all the science stuff checks out, but it felt realistic enough, and the explanations were also easy enough to understand. I suppose it could all work in that way, and it was evident that Heaton put in plenty of research for all the details.
While the descriptions were great, the dialogue was cringe-worthy. And I’m not a fan of constant ellipses in the text, such as: “No she’s not Tom.” Simpson insisted. “…She works for the company… don’t forget… you got her the job.” This made the writing difficult to read.
Further, there was a lot of ‘telling’ of the story, versus ‘showing.’ There weren’t many active scenes, with most information told to the reader. The tone of voice reminded me more of a reporter telling the story, which is fine, but I would’ve liked a better balance between the two.
One thing I didn’t care for was that sometimes things were foreshadowed. For example, ‘His comments would be heard at Cape Canaveral almost thirty minutes later, but by the time they reached Earth… x would be dead.’
It’s not a bad thing to do; I just personally find it a bit of a cheap trick to create suspense. I think it would’ve been better if the story had more active scenes, where the build-up would’ve been longer, and that would create suspense.
So, all-in-all, Red Dust and Raindrops: Death on Mars had some good elements, but also quite some things that didn’t work for me. It has good descriptions, and the story has some nice twists, but the characters felt flat, the females were described too sexist, and there was too much telling of the story and too many ellipses in dialogue. If you’re looking for a leisurely afternoon read about a mission to Mars, with some family drama and crime, then this is a book you can read. However, I would not recommend it if you’re a hardcore sci-fi reader or looking for a story that is like the Martian. It’s not a man-vs-nature story, nor is it an action story.