Before Mars - A Fascinating Sci-Fi Mystery / Thriller

March 12th, 2021
Cover image of the post

After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist in residence--and already she feels she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth.

In her room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note, painted in her own hand, warning her not to trust the colony psychiatrist. A note she can't remember painting.

When she finds a footprint in a place that the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that she is caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy. Or is she losing her grip on reality? Anna must find the truth, regardless of what horrors she might discover or what they might do to her mind.

Before Mars cover: black background, red Mars, an outline of a (probably) female profile


Anna Kubrin - a geologist and artist who has been sent to Mars - is the main character. As is typical of all the Planetfall books, the story is told in the first person through her point of view. It's also a typical thing that Anna is struggling with some issues and is brilliantly fleshed out. We get to know her intimately thanks to the depth of Emma Newman's writing. Other characters are the crew living on the Mars base, each of them is unique and feels real.


Emma Newman has created an immersive, well-researched world, depicting various aspects of living on Mars. A lot of the tech is common for the Planetfall world, some of it is specific to Mars. Again, extensive world-building and interesting technology is something I've come to associate with author's style. The book can be classified as hard sci-fi.


The plot is straightforward, even though it's told in a non-linear way and a lot of information is provided through flashbacks, memories and immersive recordings that Anna watches (which is again something typical of Emma Newman's style, at least in the Planetfall series).


I loved the book. Even though I deduced part of the mystery early on from the previous novels in the series, it still had a lot to offer and surprise me with. The book can be read as a standalone, and I believe it can be more unpredictable this way.

The flaws and struggles of the main character are the focus of the story along with the Martian mystery. Anna Kubrin struggles with her motherhood and marriage. Through her, the author creates a compelling and profound portrayal of postnatal depression.

You might enjoy the book if you are into Mars, high-tech, sci-fi thrillers and liked other Planetfall books. You can also start with this book and see if you want to proceed with the series.

You can get 'Before Mars' at Apple, Barnes&Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and other shops.

The author

Emma Newman writes short stories, novels and novellas in multiple speculative fiction genres. Her Planetfall series was nominated for the Best Series Hugo Award 2020 and individual books in that series have been shortlisted for multiple awards. She is a professional audiobook narrator, and won the Alfie and Hugo Best Fancast Awards for her podcast Tea and Jeopardy. Emma is a keen role-player, gamer, painter and designer-dressmaker.

Check out her website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube channel and Goodreads page.

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