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One Way by S. J. Morden (Review) @Gollancz @ComradeMorden #OneWay #Survival #Mars #ScienceFiction #MurderMystery


10.04.2018 / Gollancz / Science Fiction / Paperback / 336pp / 978-1473222564

Target Audience: Readers who like exploratory science-fiction with a huge dose of mystery and danger thrown in. 

About One Way

A murder mystery set on the frozen red wastes of Mars.

Eight astronauts.

One killer.

No way home.

A murder mystery set on the frozen red wastes of Mars.

Eight astronauts. One killer. No way home.



Frank Kittridge is serving life for murdering his son’s drug dealer. So when he’s offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations – the company that runs the prison – he takes it, even though it means swapping one life sentence for another.


He’s been selected to help build the first permanent base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty of their crimes as he is – and he’ll have to learn to trust them if they’re to succeed.


As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply. Until Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all . . .


There’s a murderer amongst them, and everyone’s a suspect.

Pick up a copy: Gollancz / Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

My Review

One Way is a superb high-stakes SF murder mystery novel that paints a vivid and intense picture of a genuine effort to inhabit Mars. S. J. Morden has always been one of my favourite authors and One Way is a perfect reflection of how far he has come as a writer. A bold and confident story told well with plenty of exploration within the lead character, setting and themes. One Way follows prisoner Frank Kitteridge who is offered a place on a experimental mission to Mars to lead a team of other convicts to establish Mars Base One. MBO is Xenosystems Operarions’ first step to creating a colony on Mars and once it is built it will become a haven for scientists and visionaries. Frank has been offered a spot but he will not be set free. He is serving 128 years for second degree murder, a sentence that he accepted in return for his choice to murder a drug dealer. His new prison will be relocated 34,000,000 miles away.

Frank and his crew-mates must be deemed fit and capable to gain clearance for launch and avoid being thrown in the Hole for the rest of their lives. Frank has to endure rigorous training to travel to and acclimatise with Mars and its harsh environments and low gravity. On this mission there are seven convicts and one tyrannical prison guard, Brack, who is to oversee the mission. Each member of the team has been selected for their competence in a relevant skill required to survive. Construction, medicine, agriculture, travel and other key skills. I thought this team was brilliantly attributed to the story. Each member was memorable and brought a different edge to the novel including a reformed neo-nazi, an Angel Of Mercy, and a highway killer amongst other menaces to society.

Once they make the year long journey to the Red Planet they realise this will be an imperfect mission from the beginning. Setting out to gather supplies ends in a unfortunate death and more incidents and failures follow swiftly. As the crew work to stay alive, Frank begins to realise that maybe they weren’t meant to survive this mission at all. One Way captures the tension, conflict and suspense that would arise during a Mars expedition perfectly. There is plenty of danger, shady background dealings and drama to keep the reader engaged too. I did misinterpret what this novel was truly aiming for but I was far from disappointed with the end result.

SJ Morden’s writing shines bright here with a narrative that is paced suitably for a stressful expedition to an alien planet. His imagery and descriptive writing really immersed me in the crew’s efforts for even the most basic construction and resources. The three distinct acts of One Way evolve the narrative well and up the stakes at every turn. With the third act turning the story into a bit of a murder-mystery within the group. I think following just Frank instead of the crew as a whole was a smart decision and his experience alone was captivating enough to keep me reading all the way to the end. I liked his mentality, integrity and skill even the face of adverse odds. I loved that there was plenty of depth to all of the science, construction and technology aspects of the novel which made this engrossing science fiction reading. I can’t comment too much on the plausibility factor as I not that much of a boffin. It felt realistic enough to keep me interested and invested.

Mars is treacherous and unpredictable; Frank and the others literally have to watch their every move and every word. Brack and XO are listening and monitoring everything. I loved the way SJM divulged the details behind the mission at the start of every chapter. It added another dimension to the perilous voyage the group has to undertake and give answers to burning questions that arise along the way. One Way is filled with great themes like survival, betrayal, team-work, danger, death, consequences, space exploration and imprisonment. Humans vs  robots. Stress under pressure and uncertainty. Live or die trying! I definitely recommend One Way all SF and thriller lovers who appreciate a story with plenty of complexity and dangerous happenings. One Way doesn’t re-write the script on Mars fiction but it is well focused, memorable and immensely enjoyable.

About Simon Morden

Dr S. J. Morden has won the Philip K. Dick Award and been a judge on the Arthur C. Clarke Award. He is a bona fide rocket scientist with degrees in Geology and Planetary Geophysics. ONE WAY is the perfect fusion of his incredible breadth of knowledge and ability to write award-winning, razor-sharp science fiction.

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