“Red Hope. It’s a red liquid form of cyanide. The purpose of it was in case the crew had a life-threatening disaster and would not be able to return.”
When I read this line was when I first realized that this was not going to be a happy go lucky, survive against the elements of space and live happily ever after kind of novel, like Apollo 13 or something. There were hints before, like when more experienced astronauts decided to forgo the mission because there wasn’t enough preparation involved; or when the President unilaterally decided to make a totally unreasonable plan to get to Mars within a year without consulting the head of NASA first.
There was literally no reason to include a line like that unless well…everyone (or the majority of everyone) was going to die.
So I don’t know why I was so surprised when shit started hitting the fan and our heroes didn’t end up being well…all that hero-like.
This was a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed: aforementioned foreshadowing aside, there were plenty of events that I just didn’t see coming at all, but which made sense in the context of the story. More than that, we got flawed characters with real motivations that we could at least understand, if not empathize with.
Keller, the “sugar daddy” of the group, playful millionaire who isn’t qualified at all to be on the trip, is entertaining in his own right. Between his stories of how he got to where he was, how he ended up totally going back on his word to the Russians, and his not-so-secret relationship with Molly, you got great insight into a character who had the best of intentions, but who definitely should not have been on the trip in the first place.
Adam, arguably the main protagonist in the story, is relatable while the story is on Earth. A devoted family man, he goes on the dangerous mission in large part to secure financial well being for his family, especially his wife who got life-changingly hurt last time he was in space. He wrote a book about his time in space, a spectacularly unsuccessful book, which ends up coloring his actions for the rest of the story. You, as the reader, learn that yeah, he went up into space to financially secure his family, but also for ego. In hindsight, it should have been totally obvious that he was going to totally betray Yeva in their agreement to simultaneously be the first people on Mars.
I’ll be honest and say that I was a little happy when I saw that Keller was going to betray him and leave him there to die on Mars. What a fitting punishment: first man on Mars (who wasn’t supposed to be the *sole* first person on Mars) ends up being the first man to die on Mars. Poetic, even.
But alas, Keller is not only a coward, but a dumb, out of shape coward who pauses at the doorway just long enough to let Adam murder him horribly and steal his air. Well, to be fair, Keller betrayed him first since they were supposed to share the air, but nevertheless…
Yeva gets so totally fucked this entire story. First, she’s put on the mission only because Keller screwed over the Russian government and so they refuse to play nice with the US. It’s not really the best thing in the world to be forced onto people who don’t want you there. But okay, so she’s there, she’s competent, she trains, and…she wins the little lottery the crew have as to which 2 get to be first people on Mars. Sweet! Except…that shithead Adam preemptively jumps and beats her to the punch!
WTF?!?!? In her shoes I would definitely have assaulted Adam in front of billions of people with a kick or a punch or something, mission results and international relationships be damned. For the rest of human history, his name will be the one everyone learns and remembers. Hers will be a footnote. And he has the gall to say things like “Remember your training, let’s work as a team?” Pffffft.
Yeah, I would say her sarcastic and pissed off attitude afterwards to Adam is about as muted of a reaction as you could possibly expect.
I did like her chapter where she finally got some happiness on Mars, as she realized that she was the first person to actually touch Mars while she frolicks in the sand next to the Big Turtle. Having her find happiness in making the best of a bad situation was heartwarming.
Aside from the characters, I think the thing I liked best about Red Hope was the pacing of events in the story. Lots of novels I’ve read lately feel…meandering, like they could have spent a lot less time to get to the point and tell me what happened. Red Hope definitely doesn’t have that problem. Hell, the nuclear apocalypse happens on Earth in the span of a chapter with almost no leadup to it. I remember thinking “Wait. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!”
I can’t wait for the next novel. Between that and the new The Expanse novel that come out in Q4 of this year, I’m going to be one happy camper.