Pike (Sati, 1990) leaves behind the young YA horror/suspense field to show what he can do with horror for adults and scores strongly—in a novel that covers many genres: suspense/fantasy/sf/horror. In 1996, the first unmanned space probe to land on Mars sent back sensational analyses (including secret pictures of huge footprints) before going dead. Four years later, the Russian crew of the manned Lenin loses contact in midmission. When the first American crew, which includes Dr. Lauren Wagner as medical officer, lands there in 2002, the mysteries expand rather than resolve, and author Pike hits top suspense with the American team discovering a Russian cosmonaut still alive in his bed in the orbiting Lenin, despite a freezing temperature in the ship. To be sure, he seemingly has no pulse and answers all questions with a fixed zombie grin that never wavers. When he leads the Americans below to comb the Martian surface by jeep and by foot, and then into a dark cave where they discover something very much like water, the reluctant reader begins shouting warnings. Meanwhile, back on earth, Lauren's sister, 13-year-old Jennifer, begins writing a fantasy tale about her life as the Princess Chaneen, a goddess among the Asurians, which somehow ties in with the vampires of Mars and for a while takes up alternate chapters with the sf/horror tale, though sf folks may not willingly accept the fantasy novel interwoven with the main text. Only Lauren and fellow astronaut Gary ``survive'' the Martian ordeal and return to earth where Jennifer has killed herself—or has she? At least she's been buried. But is the Princess Chaneen still around, to fight the vampire infection sent back to earth in the two astronauts called Lauren and Gary? Not without its ups and downs but, at its best, both riveting and a back-prickler.
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