*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook #Before Mars – Book 3 of the #Planetfall series by #Emma Newman #bookreview #Brainfluffbookblog


When done well, there is no genre I love more than science fiction – I’m not sure why except there is something about a cracking well-told tale out in the stars that speaks uniquely to my soul… I loved Planetfall and After Atlas – so would this final instalment live up to the astonishing standard Newman has set so far?

After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team. But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake.

Once again what hooked and then held me, is Newman’s nuanced and layered characterisation. I found Anna a deeply poignant character, who ends up on Mars as much because she is escaping her former life, rather than due to the fact that joining the tiny colony has been a lifetime’s achievement. Her struggles to come to terms with her post-natal depression, which prevented her from fully bonding with her baby really held me – it is an issue which isn’t written about nearly enough in SFF. Kudos to Newman for providing such a sympathetic, poignant insight into the struggles some women encounter in the weeks, months and years after having a baby.

I’m conscious that I’ve managed to make this one sound like it’s all about a rather broken woman wandering around and agonising about the baby she has left behind on Earth. While that is a minor story strand – actually, this book is a tense thriller whereby the newest visitor to a small scientific community cannot shake the sense that something is very badly wrong… I had figured out some of what is going on – but as ever, Newman has a number of other twists I didn’t see coming.

In addition, there is a strong supporting cast featuring the other characters who are also on the Mars base alongside Anna. I really appreciate the fact that there are no out and out villains – and the one character who has not behaved particularly well comes across as weak and out of their depth, rather than evil. As ever, after I put this one down, I found myself constantly thinking about it – and wondering how I’d feel in the same situation.

Like the other two books, this one can comfortably be read as a standalone. In fact, I’m not sure it wouldn’t be more satisfactory to do so – after that amazing cliff-hanger ending of After Atlas I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. I generally don’t reread anything – there are too many other fabulous books out there waiting for me. But this is the first time in a long while I’ve been strongly tempted to read through the whole trilogy, one after the other… Highly recommended for anyone who loves a gripping adventure featuring a well written, complex protagonist.

16 responses »

  1. Love seeing that “10” rating, Sarah! Im even more excited to read this now. I didn’t really know what this was about, but now I’m curious to read about a woman dealing with leaving a baby behind. That sounds awful!

  2. I haven’t read any of the books in this series yet, but wow, this one sure sounds intense. I also love a complex protagonist so the thread about the post-natal depression that Anna is dealing with appeals to me as well. Great review!

    • Thank you, Suzanne:). It’s an amazing series – After Atlas was my alltime favourite read of last year… I found myself constantly thinking about it all through the year. And this one is another stunning read.

  3. There may be a Planetfall series #4. According to Goodreads anyway. I hope so! Glad ye loved this one too. I own all three in paper form and will likely reread the whole series at some point. Such good writing.
    x The Captain

    • Oh good! I do hope so – as you say, the writing is fabulous and it’s the first time in a long while I’ve been seriously tempted to reread a whole series.

  4. I agree with all of this, and while I had a few minor issues with it I liked the book. Very thought- provoking, she seemed to handle Anna’s struggle w/ post natal depression very well, and of course those twists! Took me by surprise a couple times!

    • Yes – I was particularly impressed that AT LEAST we had a main protagonist with major issues around her experience as a mother. Being an aunt, mother and granny, I’ve been in the front line with two generations – and it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So it was nice to see an aspect of that reflected in a sci fi adventure.

      And those twists near the end certainly had my jaw dropping!

  5. Another author I’ve yet get around to. I find it somewhat amusing that as you go through book 1, then 2, and 3 (and even more) of a particular series, your reviews serve me as a reminder the series is on my radar.
    I’m glad this one didn’t disappoint you, and maybe one day I’ll be able to share my own thoughts on it with you :).

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