“Gates of Mars” by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays: An SPSFC Semifinalist Review

The inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Contest is over, but I am reading and reviewing every single semifinalist! Follow along to see what I think of the judges choices for the top 30 out of 300 books!

Gates of Mars by McFall + Hays

Crucial Larson has been summoned to the elitist utopia on Mars to solve a missing persons case. The missing person is his sister, and her capture somehow evaded the all-seeing, all-knowing-ish AI known as Halo. Halo starts interrogating Crucial after he also manages to get off the grid for a little bit on Mars, desperate to know what happened to defeat its monitoring systems. That’s where the story begins in this hard-hitting mystery.

The plot hook is fantastic. I was all in on the story of Gates of Mars from the get-go. Of course, a hook isn’t all that makes a good story, so the question that lingered in my mind was whether it would be able to maintain my interest throughout its 350-ish page length. McFall and Hays add wrinkles throughout the book to keep it going. Many of these are highly successful–such as the lingering thread about what happened with some giraffes on Mars (truly!). Others sometimes read as a bit deus ex machina. The most egregious of these were some of the ways Halo’s detection was avoided, which started to make it feel as if it were the simplest thing rather than an insanely stunning achievement.

When the plot trajectory changes around the 55-65% mark, there are some bigger highs and lows. I found some of it a bit long–possibly in need of editing down. However, at that point my investment in the characters was strong enough to sustain me even in the parts I thought might drag a bit. The conclusion was satisfying, bringing the story to a conclusion that felt like a natural end point despite clearly being ready for the rest of a series.

Gates of Mars is a great noir-sci-fi combination that I would highly recommend to fans of that genre mashup. I found it nearly un-put-down-able at times. The narrative voice, characters, and worldbuilding are quite strong.

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I received a copy of the book for review.

Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Resistance” by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky – A Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Review

We’re now in the round of semi-finalists for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and I’m reading and reviewing all of the semi-finalists! Check out my SPSFC Hub for all my posts and reviews for the contest.

Resistance by Mikhaeyla Kopievesky

Otpor is a city that seems ripe for rebellion. The execution of a rebel leader some time ago lingers over the city, and people are starting to question the Orthodoxy. The Orthodoxy is the teaching that all humans reflect an elemental core.

Readers follow some of these elementals as they deal with some of the day-to-day goings on in Otpor, including tracing and putting down Heterodoxy, any beliefs and actions that go against the seemingly harmonious existence in the society. Indeed, much of the central plot here isn’t about some oppressive government that the young and likely good-looking main characters must take down. Instead, it’s about interpersonal conflicts and how the beliefs we have about others and ourselves can divide us.

I thought that the idea of humans reflecting elements was awesome. It had a kind of Divergent series set up in that regard, but with a wider focus and seemingly more possibilities. Indeed, in the sense of world-building, this book goes beyond some other YA dystopias in having what’s clearly a deep lore and backstory from which readers get tantalizing glimpses throughout the book.

That said, the downside here is that readers only get those tantalizing glimpses and not much more in this first entry of the series. It’s like there’s a huge amount of questions and you know there are answers there, but the answers are horded rather than being doled out in satisfying portions. Only near the end of the book do we finally start to see the world with more open eyes, but at that point it reads as a bit too little, too late.

Resistance is an intriguing first entry in a series. It plays on the dystopia genre in different ways than I’ve seen before. That said, it doesn’t resolve enough of the plot tension or give enough a view of the world to make it feel the payoff is all there.

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.