James McStravick reviews The Patriots of Mars by Jeff Faria.
In 2231, twenty-five billion people walk the Earth. Few lack basic food and shelter. Energy is cheap and abundant. A vast army of ‘bots serves our every need. And those who can afford to do so might live forever. To some, it is a golden age.
But Earth is devoid of resources, now harvested on or around Mars. Nations are ruled from above by governments owned by enormous transnats, and from below by powerful street gangs who have largely usurped the police.
Quietly, the watchful Simulated Intelligence called MOM enables our very existence. But our utter dependence on her makes her widely feared.
This world is not for everyone. A fifth of the world’s population has withdrawn into the drug Nirvana, while millions more have chosen Martian exile. And a phantom group called ‘The Patriots of Mars’ has committed an act of rebellion that stands the world on its ear.
Josh Reynolds, a Martian-born teen with a secret, is trying to change his life when he gets caught up in the wake of the Patriots’ insurrection. As he struggles to both find and save himself, Josh encounters a discredited prophesy and begins to realize that the change he had hoped for could become something more far-reaching than anyone had imagined.
The Space Opera sub-genre has always been a genre that I struggle reading, due to its complexities and intricacies. Upon reading the synopsis for The Patriots of Mars, I realised that it was part of that particular sub-genre, and I was a little worried about how I would cope with reading it. I was glad to discover that my previous struggles didn’t effect my enjoyment of this book.
Jeff Faria has written this book in such a way that it is very easy to follow all the different threads and characters throughout the book. Over the years I have read quite a few books where this has been done and I have found this can either be a good or bad thing depending on how its done. This can be accomplished one of two ways; either by giving you the information you need, letting you naturally discover what is going on, and letting you come to your own understanding, or by outright telling the reader what is happening and explaining it. I prefer the former of these two methods, because I feel the latter can sometimes be construed as the reader not being smart enough to realise what is happening.
On more than one occasion I found myself getting lost in the world-building of this book due to it highly descriptive nature for the backdrop. This was very much the case when it came to reading the scenes about the mines on Mars. It was very clear that Jeff Faria had a clear picture in his mind when it came to writing about what the characters experienced, and that there was a heavier focus on the world and its politics rather than the characters personally.
Some people may find this off-putting, but I myself found it created a more life-like environment as you weren’t constantly learning about why a character did something instead you focused on the actions and their repercussions. The one aspect of the book that I really struggled with at times was the story itself and how it was being told, and I experienced this on two levels.
The first came when I started reading the prologue of the book. Over the years I have realised that when it comes to a prologue it is something that you use to grip the reader and possibly give them a hint towards the bigger picture so that they will instantly want to read more. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case with The Patriots of Mars, because the opening prologue accounted for approximately 8% of the entire book, and for me this felt too long, and I somewhat struggled to get through it. This came down to the fact that we are dropped straight into a scene we know nothing about and we don’t know the cause of the problem.
The second came at certain intersections of the book where I felt some scenes were dragged out slightly. One thing this book does though is reward patience because once you reach the 40 – 50% mark of the book you will hit the book at its best because its at this point the action and intensity truly begins.
With all of this in mind I would say I certainly enjoyed The Patriots of Mars, but the slow and confusing start accompanied by the drawn out scenes did somewhat hinder this. However if you are a fan of science fiction novels then I would certainly recommend you read The Patriots of Mars because, even with its issues, it is still a good book to read.