Title: In the Shadow of Deimos
Author: Jane Killick
Published by: Aconyte
Publication date: 3rd August 2021
Genre: Science Fiction/War
Mars, 2316. The recently created Terraforming Committee arbitrates the dramatic development of Mars by powerful rival corporations. When a rogue asteroid crashes into a research center and kills its lone technician, the fragile balance between corporations is shattered. The World Government’s investigation into the accident reveals a multitude of motives, while a corporation insider stumbles on a dark conspiracy. Two Martians with very different agendas must navigate a trail of destruction and treachery to uncover the truth and expose those responsible, before Mars falls to Earth’s corruption. As lines blur between progress and humanity, Mars itself remains the biggest adversary of all.
I was approved to review an eARC of In the Shadow of Deimos via NetGalley by Acontye Books. I am grateful for the approval and hope that you find my review satisfactory.
In the Shadow of Deimos is a tie-in novel for the board game Terraforming Mars, it’s not a game that I have played before, but I’ve found with all the Aconyte books I’ve had the pleasure of reading you don’t need to be familiar with the novels origins to enjoy their books. As a quick side note, since picking up and reading Litany of Dreams and The Devourer Below, I’ve played a short Arkham Horror campaign and enjoyed it all the more for having read the books.
In the Shadow of Deimos follows Luka Schafer, an immigrant to Mars looking to work the remainder of his days in manual labour to forget the trials of his life back on Earth. Alas, things don’t go smoothly and he is soon wrapped up in the mystery of a co-workers death. On the flip side of this death is Julie, unwitting investigator of what caused the accident that cost the unfortunate man his life.
The characters in In the Shadow of Deimos are engaging and endearing; as the book progresses there’s more to discover about their pasts and their individual motivations – as well as that fo the corporations they work for and represent. There is a lot of political inner-workings in the novel that are experienced through the characters that they are a part of. While the investigation of the dead co-worker is the heart of the story, I found the political intrigue between the Mega-Corporations of Mars to bulk out the rest of the novel; the world-building and placement of ideas within this aspect of the novel is second to none. Figuring out if any of the individual corporations has more of a positive merit than the others is as much a part of the mystery as the investigation.
So too is the mystery that’s eating away at Luka Schafer; he has clearly been driven to Mars to escape something terrible, possibly linked to the Mega-Corporations of the red planet. As the pages turn and the mystery is uncovered, it made me wonder if the life-changing event would tie back into the story or if it was just another tragic-tale laden hero. The manner in which Luke deals with his past and how it feeds back into the story is well considered and shows the sign of expertly crafted story-telling.
There’s a handful of side characters, each with their own individual flair and the cast is diverse; as one would expect when considering these characters have come from various origins on Earth. I did find it somewhat jarring however when the characters were described directly by the colour of their skin and thought that this could have been addressed in a more sympathetic manner.
Both Luka and Julie had different approaches to the cause of their investigations and as a reader you’re given a larger picture than each of the individual characters; the mystery is for the characters to solve and while it’s easier for the reader to figure it out, the journey that the characters take you on is full of action, betrayal and heart-pounding thrills! There are dramatic scenes that completely pull you in and leave you breathless as they resolve. While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I did find myself enjoying the scenes where the tension is high the most. In one such offering, Luka Schafer is crossing from one of the Terraforming Cities to another in a rented rover, his power and air running low. This scene was high-energy and fast-paced giving across a true sense of urgency. This is one of many such scenes that are carried out with expert skill from the writer. Gripping the reader and leaving them eager for the next exciting event.
The pacing of the story is generally strong, starting off relatively sedately and building into a large, climatic crescendo; the plot having a good, well-rounded ending that leaves the characters open enough to have further dealings with the Corporations of Mars but giving the reader enough closer for the story within this particular novel.
All-in-all In the Shadow of Deimos is a very strong introduction to the Terraforming Mars world and I do hope that Aconyte picks up more novels in the world-setting in future.
A very intense book dealing with both Science Fiction and Mystery genres. A good introduction to the Terraforming Mars world-setting without bogging down the reader with game lore. A strong narrative with relatable and enjoyable characters. Good mystery to the plot and a well-rounded story that offers closure while leaving enough threads to be picked up should the series continue.