It's Jaye's 21st birthday, but since she was raised on Mars, it passes just like every other day: harvesting mushrooms from the grow room, tending her fellow Trueborn Children of Mars, and stalking her murderous, neurotypical father.
Until a message comes from Earth--an Earth they thought was lifeless. Apparently one man still draws breath, and he's a maniac with the launch codes for a nuclear missile in Martian orbit.
Jaye must work with her father or everyone dies - including her own daughter. And she needs more than just survival. She needs a reason to live
Jason Dias is a neurodivergent existential psychologist - that is, an autistic man whose fascination with the human condition led him to an advanced degree in said condition.
His work in speculative fiction is united by literary, existential themes. Rather than publish scholarly works to be read only by scholars who already agree with the author, Jason's early obsession with Asimov, Heinlein, and later Stephen King showed him another way to express philosophical thoughts. Novels and short stories are more accessible than academic journals.
Besides, he's been known to say, "If I have a choice between writing in APA style and being punched in the face, I ask, 'How hard?'"
Central to his existentialist philosophy is the notion that hope is only possible through despair. If we are unwilling to engage with truth and our harder emotions, our hope is merely wishful thinking.
"It doesn't really get better," he says. "But we do."
What does it mean to be human? After you find out that everyone but one guy, a complete nutcase who intends to blow the rest of humanity up so he can be the official Last Man, are you more human...or less?
And can you stop him?
So this was a lot of hard SF on the order of The Martian, although probably not quite as engineer-centric. But the style was much more like Roadside Picnic or Stanislaw Lem than it was your typical sci-fi writing, which gave it a heightened flavor. A philosopher's book with a ticking time bomb. There's a plot twist that I don't want to give away, but that pleased me very much with the core story. Can people change their minds, really? Truly? Blissfully, yes.
Finding Life On Mars is much more than a science fiction novel, although it satisfies most excellently in that regard. It is a delicate, tender, thoughtful examination of what it means to be human, what it means to love, and what it means to live. Dias manages to draw the reader swiftly and inescapably into the mind of what for most neurotypical readers should feel "other," and flips the construct so that outside is in, and inside is a wilderness, baffling and unmappable. Tense, gripping, action-packed and yet deeply emotional, this book is guaranteed to rivet the reader and linger long in the mind.
I admit that I had low expectations. I bought the book at the Colorado Springs Comic Con, from the author himself. I bought it because he seemed nice and I wanted to support a local author, not because I thought it would be any good. But I was pleasantly surprised. Very pleasantly surprised.
Without spoiling the plot, I'll just say that Finding Life on Mars reminds me of some of the best contemplative novels that I've read. Books like The Left Hand of Darkness, or Simak's Waystation. Books that really make you think, about life, about what it means to be human. Really a lovely experience to read.
I picked up Finding Life On Mars because I was looking for a good science fiction read, which I definitely got. Jason Dias knows his stuff, and has written a tight novel. What I didn't expect was how deep this novel was going to be. It is a thoughtful examination of what it means to be human.
This is my first read from Jason Dias and now it definitely won't be my last. His writing is gripping. He captivated my attention right from the beginning and was able to keep my attention all the way through. The book was tense, gripping, and action-packed, yet deeply emotional and I am still thinking about it.
I highly recommend checking this one out. I don't think it will disappoint you!
*I read this book for a blog tour through Sage's Blog Tours. All opinions are my own.*
I truly enjoy Jason Dias' storytelling, and this is my favorite book by him to date. His writing is tight in this novel. It's emotional and gripping and ultimately full of hope, and chock-full of the complications that arise when starting a new society on a new world while watching the world of old die before your eyes. It ties in nicely with two earlier books, What Hope Wrought and Shooting Blanks, set in this story's past, though it's not an official sequel. I would, however, love to see a sequel to this book. This new world is rife with possibility.
Finding Life on Mars is indeed a novel about isolation. From the larger view, the characters are alone on Mars. Upon deeper examination, they are alone even together in their settlement. The story follows a Martian settlement after the initial landers have procreated and are continuing to survive after the Earth's population is presumed dead. Aside from one last person menacing with a nuclear weapon.
I always enjoy stories where society and humanity are stripped away to examine what is left in people, what is operating underneath us all. Dias takes the opportunity to use a barren setting to truly dissect his robust and complex characters. There is comparison and tension between the settlers from Earth and their Martian children. The story asks what makes us different and the same and how do we connect through our differences.
I adored the narrator and loved following her arc. Her character development feels so authentic and effortless and truly conveys the story. I was rapt, intrigued the entire time I listened (very well read audiobook) and felt satisfied with the conclusion.
All young people think they're different from their parents until they realize they're fundamentally not. Until they learn that there are some things, some needs, some emotions, that all people in the known universe share and some secrets within dark isolation that maybe should not be kept.
Confronting mortality at the hands of a madman with no real way to stop him can make a person re-examine their priorities in a hurry. Finding Life on Mars is a poignant story of finding love, truth, solidarity, freedom, and oneself, set against the tense backdrop of surviving in an unforgiving alien environment while a ticking time bomb threatens to wipe out the very last of humanity.
A story of what it means to be human, even if you don't feel you are. The science is fascinating, but the personal interactions and differences are more so. The main character/narrator is compelling. It's about relationships, understanding, adaptation, and survival in a harsh environment. A story with heart and a ticking clock.
There's a great deal to love about this book. The research and the scientific information that went into creating a (semi) viable Martian colony is phenomenal. The exploration of human acceptance and resolve in the face of what cannot be changed is inspiring. The view of the madness that despair can cause in humans is painful. And the exploration of neurodivergent thought as a resource and a strength is some of the most authentic I've read. The style is stark and lyrical. I'm glad to have it on my shelf, bracketed by Pale Blue Dot, Far Horizons and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. That's where it belongs.
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
This book seems to answer the question, "what if a Vulcan told a story?"
In the not too, too, distant future humans have sent colonists to Mars to carve out an existence and get settlements ready for future colonists. Unfortunately, that was before Earth fell on desperate times. The Mars population is small, and Earth is no longer responding to messages. Worst of all, the children of the colonists are different, very different.
So, whats good about this book? Well, a lot really. It is well thought out, well written and well narrated. It is an interesting story about the fate of the human race, when the human race doesn't seem to exist any longer. Most of the characters are complex. The situations are believable. The story flows fluently and progresses organically. It is truly a good book about the beginnings of space exploration and colonization of other planets.
What makes it only a 3 star book? Well, everything else. My comment about the Vulcan derives from the fact that the story is told from the POV of one of the children of the colonists. The first true Martian. Unfortunately, the main character acts as a a hypocritical Vulcan. She hides all emotion, and tries to only show logic all of the time. Even her inner monologue describes everything in a emotionless monotone. What this does, is leave the story flat. Once all emotion has been drained out of a situation, what you are left with is a text book. It makes a good source for information, but makes for a less than exciting read.
The Vulcan like main character does, of course, have emotions, but denies they exist and the story is really about her journey to find her humanity. And for this, I applaud the author. But as there are stories within the stories, which are told in the same bland monotone, This makes sense in the narrative, as the stories are supposed to be the recounting of the story by the main character. However, as this is all supposed to be past tense, it would be more compelling if there was more emotional weight to the events.
There are some minor technical errors though out, but they do little to take away from the overall story. However, the main character is very hypocritical in her dealings with others, for example, she mentally chastises the original colonists for "wasting words, like they cost nothing." when they state the obvious. The fact that she constantly does this, herself, though out the book is fairly annoying. It could be used to show that she really IS human, as hypocrisy is human trait. However, I don't get the impression that was the authors intention.
The work by Jennifer Jill Araya is well done. However, as she was forced to speak like a robot through most of the book, its hard to tell what kind of range she has.
All in all, a good book, but it lacks the emotional depth that would have made it gripping. Very good concept and well planned out, though.
This was a very interesting Mars colony story. I do love Mars as a setting and have enjoyed many stories set there, yet this tale had a new spin to it. A colony ship filled with middle-aged humans made their desperate way to Mars, hoping to start a colony there, expecting more to follow them. However, Earth was too far down into it’s final death spiral. Yet the new colonists were surprised to have children, yet all of those children aren’t like them; all are autistic to some degree and none are sure why.
The story is told by Jaye, a woman in her early 20s and one of the first Trueborns (those born on Mars). She doesn’t do well with emotions; in fact, she’s in denial of her own deep feelings. Her ability to feel and yet to also shove those feelings aside and think critically make her a formidable character. And that is exactly what this tiny colony needs now, with an unexpected threat looming over them all.
Then there’s the mushrooms – hooray! Fungus will save us all! Well, it will save a few humans on Mars at any rate. I did find it odd that the colonists weren’t jumping up and down at the Mars mushroom more; after all it appears to be the key to terraforming. So I would have enjoyed having this part of the story expanded upon and seeing more reaction from the colonists. After all, not much happens on Mars (as long as things are going well). So this would be a novel, new thing.
My one real complaint for the story is the cover art. Really, it’s the big band of pink on the side of the audiobook cover that bothers me. It’s like using a pink ribbon to mark babies as female, because we might not otherwise notice a female on the cover of a science fiction novel.
Pretty good story. 4.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Jennifer Jill Araya was great at this tale. She had a good range of voices and put them to great use. She voices Jaye perfectly. Her male character voices sounded masculine. The pacing was spot on & there were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review courtesy of Audiobookworm Tours.
Finding Life on Mars tells the story of the last men alive, who traveled to Mars escaping from a devastated Earth. The second generation, or true born, as the ones born in Mars are known, have very different behavioral and cognitive patterns than the ones of their parents. Jaye is one of these true borns, and the story is told from her perspective. They one day discover that there is still one man left on Earth, but in his madness, he only seeks the destruction of the Mars colony.
I really wanted to like this book. I think the idea of creating a whole generation with autistic traits was a great idea to make us understand how autistic minds work. I just had troubles believing it. For somebody who has lived abroad, these differences and the attitude of wanting to be different from their parents do not feel realistic. On the other hand, I wanted to find an explanation to why many (but not all) of the true born were autistic, but this was not clear.
I also had issues with the madman wanting to annihilate the last survivors. I know it is a figure often used in post-apocalyptic stories and thrillers, but it does not feel credible to me.
I found very difficult to connect with Jaye, and her detached view of the world. I wanted to understand her and justify her actions but I was just not able to.
Jennifer Jill Araya did a great job narrating this book, providing a quite plain speech for Jaye, which was what the text just needed, although this made it hard to focus on the book. I
It was an interesting book, but no the easiest to get into. It was okay, but there were too many issues preventing me from fully enjoying it.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
If you want light fluffy, cotton-candy bullshit...this is not the book for you.
It's at the same time a page turner and a book you'll want to pause now and then to digest. To ponder. Where does meaning in life come from? How do we relate to each other? Why does it matter whether there's life out there or not? How do we adapt to isolation, to life without meaning? What's the difference between living and surviving? What's worth living for and what's worth dying for?
This book explores all that and more. Our narrator may or may not be autistic. It might depend on who you ask. Then again, people have to remind her she's human, even as the first person born on Mars and the start of a generation that has never known Earth gravity, or wind, or most colors.
Jason gives us a diverse cast of characters, real flawed people, who can exist in a state of hopelessness but you still find yourself rooting for them as they struggle to find it. On the surface it looks like it could be a depressing book, but it's not. It's a story about hope.
In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum's character says, "life finds a way." I think this book is Jason's way of saying, "hope finds a way." His background as an existential psychologist isn't wasted here.
There was very little not to like in this book. There was one plot issue I thought was a problem, but it got explained adeptly and showed more about our not always reliable narrator. The pacing was spot-on, always moving, always giving more and always leaving you wanting the next scene, the next chapter. Tension builds gradually from multiple sources until death is literally hanging over them, ready to drop at any second.
This is hard sci-fi done right. I loved this book. Five stars in a constellation against a backdrop of empty blackness littered with beauty.
Yeah, I have to admit it... although I've been a SF/F fan most of my life, it wasn't til I read "The Martian" by Andy Weir, that I actually gave any serious thought to Mars, and what colonizing it would look like. And no, the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Barsoom novels that I read in high school don't really count... I haven't read everything that's out there, but I do find myself perking up now when I see "Mars" in the title... I really enjoyed this interesting take on what a colony might look like... A colony abandoned before it really got started, a colony of limited resources and dwindling population. No replenishment ship is coming, and Earth's been completely ravaged by bad politics and climate change. Plus now a maniac, possibly the last man on earth, is threatening their very existence... Jason Dias made an interesting choice when writing the book, the children born on Mars are born different with Hyperthymesia and possibly somewhat on the autistic spectrum, because of their differences they've created a self-imagined obstacle which makes heartfelt communication almost impossible. So not only are they dealing with the threat from earth, but they have to overcome all barriers including themselves to survive... Jennifer Jill Araya was able to pull off this challenging book with aplomb, giving each character the voice they needed to tell their part of the story... So if you like stories like The Martian (Andy Weir), The Lady Astronaut of Mars (Mary Robinette Kowal), and Retrograde (Peter Cawdron), you might want to make this your next read... This audiobook was good!
Generally speaking, post-apocalyptic tales are dark and tense and any sense of attachment comes from the people trying to survive against all odds. That’s certainly true of Finding Life on Mars but the friction between the original colonists from Earth and the generation that was born on Mars brings a whole new level of anxiety.
Earth has essentially died and, while that was expected, the colonists didn’t realize just how bad things were and that they would be the only ones to survive. They’ve made a life for themselves on Mars and have raised families but the Landers will die out before much longer. The Trueborns, those born on Mars, are of a different sort all together with somewhat rigid personalities and little empathy. Will these two groups be able to come together in the common cause of stopping a madman bent on destroying everything or will this be their last chance to understand and love each other in spite of their differences?
Narrator Jennifer Jill Araya is new to me but I was impressed with her ability to make Jaye more personable than she really is and it was her performance that kept me engaged with the story, despite her having to maintain a nearly robotic monotone. While I enjoyed the tale, I think I would have had more difficulty connecting with Jaye if I had read this visually. Still, Mr. Dias has left me thinking about the importance of the human personality and the need for emotional connections.
I enjoyed this novel for many aspects: the structure of it was creative, with the layered plots of the current situation and the reminiscing of the characters weaving together. I loved the primary protagonists especially Jaye, and the way she progresses from her feelings of hate, pain and isolation to having more human feelings. The other characters were strong and quite memorable which can be hard to do with a large group like that. I also liked that this was a book by a neurodivergent author, about some neurodivergent characters; I'd never read such a book and I liked the style that I lended and the authenticity of experience. The beginning was a little slow, but quickly picked up and I was on tenterhooks the rest of the way. The end felt a little anticlimactic because I really hated the Singh character lol and wanted something more. But apart from that it was a good read. I expected more action/adventure but it was more philosophical and that was a good thing. My other nitpick is I saw a few typos in the latter part of the book.
So I haven't ever really been into Science Fiction before, however, I am glad I picked this audiobook to review. The book was well thought out and well written, I thought. The characters are complex and I thought the author did a great job bringing them to life. With the right mindset, the situations that are in the book are believable. It's a book that makes you wonder what would happen if there comes an end to the human race.
I think I probably would have done better with a paper or ebook version of this book instead of the audiobook. While the audiobook was good, you couldn't really get a full range of the narrator, I think probably because she was forced to speak as a robot. The book was well thought out and well written. The narration was good, but I am going to have to look for other books narrated by Jennifer Jill Araya.
I requested a copy of this book to review. My review is my own and is 100% honest. I voluntarily left this review on Finding Life on Mars.
This is such an interesting book. It is about a colony on Mars that hasn’t gone as planned. The colonists have survived by finding ways to repurpose what little they have and by adapting. A new generation has been born. The novel also illustrates differences in how people relate to each other and gives an excellent and accurate perspective/portrayal of the inner workings of the mind of a person who is socially isolated (what we might call Aspergers or on the autistic spectrum). The author includes rich perspectives of other characters that fold into the storyline seamlessly and draw you in wishing that you could know even more about the characters. An ongoing threat is presented by the lone survivor of a decimated earth who promises to destroy the colony. This book is wonderfully imaginative and described so well that you can picture this strange life on Mars vividly in your head.
I love and respect Dias' nonfiction work so much. I couldn't wait to see the world he imagined when life on Earth ends and a new world has to be developed on a planet so different than our own. What evolves in the story is more than those imaginings, though. Dias delivers a seamless blend of philosophical questions about what it means to be human, with characters trying to empathize with others whose emotional expression is different than their own, and a gripping plot where the threat of being destroyed is equally as tense as the struggle for survival.
I intially almost passed this book by but so glad I read the synopsis and listened to the narrator. I really enjoyed the narration and story. I love the setting in space and many of the social issues it brings up that are relavent today. It was a quick listen and I have already suggested it to a few friends. I will be revisiting this book in the future.
I really enjoyed the possibility of the last man on earth being a lunatic. When I heard that part I was hooked!
This month seems to be the month of space for me. I have also been listening to The Martian and reading The Splintered Silence. If you like either of these I think you will enjoy this book.
I received this audiobook at my request and I provided this voluntary review.