In the first volume of Parker’s (See the Worlds, 2015) planned sci-fi series, Earth’s act of aggression against Mars could incite the first interplanetary war.
In 2241, the fourth world war is over, and the United States and Nations has reason to celebrate. But there’s troubling news: the off-world colony on Mars may be looking to secede. Most of the USAN’s fuel is from deuterium, and the country will no longer be energy-independent if it has to trade for the precious mineral, which is much more abundant on Mars. As a demonstration of its power, the USAN retrofits two warships to send to the red planet. Mars, meanwhile, having established a government and the Martian Security Service, gets wind of the approaching ships and prepares its missile defense. It seems only a matter of time before one side pre-empts a strike with an attack of its own. Yet there’s not much action in Parker’s novel, consisting largely of political and military maneuvering. But he does fill his novel with a gloriously dense back story: the secession, for instance, is spearheaded by Charles Venkdt, whose family company was the first to send a human expedition to Mars nearly a century before. At the same time, the sci-fi elements are convincing, because they aren’t far removed from today’s norms: a comdev, for example, is like a smartphone that’s “biometrically encoded” to its owner for identity purposes, while the USAN president lives in the suitably named New White House. The story effectively generates suspense for the inevitable confrontation between the two planets: one of two warships, Otus and Ephialtes, may have been sabotaged, and the USAN’s garrison on Mars isn’t likely to surrender easily. Parker even hints at a Romeo and Juliet romance between Bobby Karjalainen, a Martian soldier who fought with the USAN during World War IV, and earthling Askel Lund, an engineer for Helios Matériel Corporation, which designed the ships. Hopefully the relationship will be explored in later books. Readers will definitely want to stick around for the epilogue; it’s a doozy.
An absorbing, inventive introduction to Parker’s version of the 23rd century, where politics still reign.