Recently, I got to catch up with Dr. Lazendic-Galloway from Monash University over coffee. We spent several hours delving into everything from her personal speciality, supernova remnants, to the subject of living on Mars.
Along with Professor Tina Overton, Dr. Lazendic-Galloway runs a free, public, online learning course called How to Survive on Mars, which covers the science essential to living on another planet. If you enjoyed The Martian, you’ll love How to Survive on Mars as, over the course of four weeks, it delivers instructional videos and learning assignments in short segments that will enrich your understanding of Mars and the challenges faced by explorers from Earth.
Dr. Lazendic-Galloway graciously agreed to review my novel Retrograde.
As an astrophysicist, it is not surprising that I like science fiction. But while I can watch any sci-fi movie, I’m picky when it comes to sci-fi books. I like to read only “hard” sci-fi, where realistic science is applied to make a plot more interesting. It’s too easy to make a story work if you ignore physical laws or facts and make your own rules. It takes more imagination and skill to create a good story using the constraints (and also possibilities) of laws of physics. I met Peter through my massive online open course (MOOC) “How to survive on Mars”, and besides an interest in Mars, we share the same attachment to hard science fiction.
Retrograde is a type of book that, once you start reading, you won’t be able to put down!
The story revolves around an international colony on Mars made of scientists, engineers and doctors, who must face the outbreak of war on Earth. The colonist must deal with this situation for which they never trained. With no ability to communicate with their mission controllers on Earth, the colonists have to make all the decisions by themselves, without knowing who started the war. And while everyone is trying to get a grasp on the situation, strange things start to happen within the colony and we start to wonder: who is the enemy?
Like Andy Weir’s The Martian, Retrograde is heaven for geeks like me. It uses realistic Martian settings and the application of real science wherever possible. In addition, it has Agatha-Christiean murder-mystery-like story plot that will keep you guessing right until the end. You will be transported to an exotic world of lava tube caves and hydroponics, where every component of the life support system is carefully planned and maintained. You will experience how it is to run or sleep in a lower gravity on Mars. There is a nice variety of characters, in gender and race, which are believable and portray scientist and space explorers very well, in my experience. The book discusses current issues regarding space exploration and searching for life on Mars, but also touches on other important issues like gender equity in science and the equitable access of all nations to space colonization.
Overall, the book has a seductive dystopian atmosphere, but it does leave a space for a hope. My favorite sentence from the book says it all: “We’ve got to stop thinking like Earthlings and start thinking like Martians.”
So if you’d like to learn more about Mars colonization and one possible future that humanity might face, I highly recommend Retrograde.