Planetfall and After Atlas were both some of the most interesting and emotionally immersive speculative fiction I have ever read, and I’m happy to report that Before Mars is no different in those respects.
Emma Newman’s writing is exemplary of good science fiction. It finds a balance between exploring human nature and imaging how science and technology will progress. Of course, these two things are very deeply connected, but not all speculative fiction acknowledges that, and most is not as nuanced and truthful as Newman’s.
There is no such thing as a polished protagonist in the Planetfall series. Like her predecessors in Planetfall and After Atlas, Anna is not only deeply affected by her own decisions and the decisions of people whose lives affect hers, but also by the tides of popular culture and by the world she was born into. Arriving on Mars as an artist and geologist, leaving her family behind and trying to fit in with a small close knit crew, Anna is not only faced with all the trials and tribulations that entails but with a mystery. There is a note, written in her own handwriting, and several small things seem out of place. Either she is losing her mind, or she has been here before.
In truth, the mystery is not so much the what, as the why, and the message is that no matter how far we travel, we can’t leave ourselves behind.