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Before Mars by Emma Newman
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Before Mars

by Emma Newman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Planetfall (3)

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836213,438 (4.07)8

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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Content warnings: child abuse, domestic violence, gore, gaslighting, birth control sabotage, reproductive coercion, misogyny, specifically motherhood-related misogyny, nonconsensual drug use, computer chips in brains, indentured servitude/slavery, surveillance state, memory wiping, suicide attempt, nuclear holocaust

Before Mars is about a geologist and artist, Anna Kubrin, who is sent to the Mars outpost to, well, do geology and art. Except when she arrives, something seems off. People are acting strangely, the AI that runs the base is behaving oddly, and she finds several objects that make no sense at all.

The book is creepy and unsettling from the start as Anna slowly unravels the mystery of what is happening on Mars, all while questioning her own sanity as she vividly recalls the psychotic break her father had when she was a child.

I think this is my favorite of the three Planetfall books, though I like all of them. I thought it was going to be a trilogy; now I’m hoping there’s going to be a fourth book, because this one leaves things wide open in ways I didn’t anticipate. I also thought this book took place before After Atlas, but it actually takes place concurrently, which makes some events from the previous book shocking and horrifying all over again.

While I really like this series and genuinely recommend it, I also recommend looking at the content warnings if reading about characters with mental health issues would be a concern for you. The first book deals heavily with anxiety and hoarding; the second book deals with PTSD, including trauma related to child abuse, and also I believe OCD, though it’s not explicit; and the third book deals heavily with gaslighting.
1 vote bluesalamanders | Dec 31, 2018 |
"Before Mars" is part of Emma Newman's Planetfall Novel series, something I didn't realize before I began the book (it is actually book three in the series, I think). I'm happy that I didn't let that fact discourage me from reading "Before Mars," however, because "Before Mars" turns out to be the kind of science fiction novel that I most enjoy: one that is about much more than its setting and futuristic inventions and the like.

This is the story of a four-person team located on the face of Mars to do scientific investigation for one of the richest men on planet Earth. When the man sends an artist/geologist to do paintings on Mars that he will be able to market for a fortune back on earth, the team seems to come apart at the seams. And Anna, the artist, becomes more and more certain that the four are conspiring against her - and that if she doesn't figure out why she is so resented, her very life may just be in danger.

"Before Mars" is combination mystery, psychological novel, and science fiction novels - and it takes the best aspects of each genre to come up with one of the best science fiction novels I've read in years. If your favorite science fiction does not require flesh-eating monsters, little green men, and flying saucers, you will like this one. "Before Mars" really is very, very good. ( )
  SamSattler | Dec 2, 2018 |
Before Mars by Emma Newman is the third stand-alone book in the Planetfall series. So far, all three books can be read in any order, but I have been reading them in publication order as they were released: first Planetfall, then After Atlas and now Before Mars. I have greatly enjoyed the entire series, and Before Mars is my new favourite.

This was a gripping story about geologist-painter Anna and her arrival on Mars. It's set roughly simultaneously to the other two books (I would have to reread the first one to double check) except mostly on Mars. The title, I think, comes from the large number of flashbacks and memories which inform Anna's character and her place in the story. I very much enjoyed the way the book alluded to a dark past before revealing the focal incident from her past surprisingly far into the book. It was brilliant.

I think the book also has slightly different impact depending on which, if any, of the other books have been read before. And how many details from the earlier books a particular reader remembers (not many, in my case, until I had been well and truely reminded). Unfortunately I can't elaborate on that further because spoilers. Suffice it to say it would be very interesting to be able to rewind time and experience them in a different order... but I suppose I will have to settle for rereading the series when it's finished.

Before Mars is an excellent read exploring a corporation-run dystopian future in which not much exploration of Mars is happening because it's not profitable. It also explores a range of mental health issues, in large part centred on the ubiquitous computer brain implants. The approach taken is also different to the other books.

Before Mars is my favourite of the Planetfall books so far, and since I hold the others in high esteem, that's really saying something. I see there's another book in the series coming next year (don't read the blurb if you haven't read the other books!) and I am very much looking forward to reading it. I highly recommend the series to fans of science fiction and/or the earlier books.

5 / 5 stars

You can read more of my reviews on ( )
  Tsana | Oct 8, 2018 |
Nowhere as interesting as the previous volume, although your millage may vary. A significant chunk of the book is composed of the main character rehashing an incident in the author's background, which while obviously personally painful, is of little interest to those who aren't effected. This significantly detracts from the rest of the book, where the central story is relatively brief and obvious, but well disguised behind a clever twist. There is far more reference to events in the prior books, and unlike book 2 I wouldn't recommend this being read as a standalone - the opening two thirds will be fine, but the ending heavily relies on prior knowledge of events and characters that are otherwise not referenced. There seems to be plenty of scope for the series to continue yet further, although how they author will keep introducing new characters remains to be seen.

This time we follow one Anna Kubrin, who works in a small geology lab trying to secure funding to still do novel science, which relies on convincing gov-corps that there's a profit to be made. As a counterpoint she's also an artist of note. She's estranged from her Father who started acting very oddly when the family lived in a rustic almost technology free commune similar to the early Circle without the religious overtones. This upbringing left her feeling somewhat isolated and out of touch with the technology reliant populace, and hence hard to fit into a profitable work community. She forces herself to try harder, and ends up married with a young daughter whom she loves, but without a special nurturing bond. The story starts as she's accepted a 2 year commission to Mars, as part of the Gabor corporation, to paint some unique art, and perhaps edge a little science in as well. However nothing really goes well even from the arrival - she discovers a note telling her to distrust the base psychologist, with no indication of why, or who wrote it, other than that it appears to be with her own paint on her own handmade paper. This does nothing to ease her mental stability after six months of watching family 'mersives where she mostly bemoans the lack of empathy she suffers for her husband and daughter.

This sense of mental unease continues for a substantial portion of the book, and comes across as self indulgent whining., especially as neither her husband or daughter are there, and there is a lot of work to be done, the other residents of the base to get along with, and then the mystery of the AI to unravel (which isn't aided by the physiological doubt). I'm aware that it is a very real, and very under-reported issue that struggles to gain the attention it deserves in the picture perfect world of today's celebrity couples. I'm sure it was hard for the author to write and possibly cathartic too, But at the same time, it's a very discordant topic within the theme of the rest of the trilogy, and doesn't endear the narrator to anyone other than those who may have similarly suffered.

I probably will read any future works set in the this world, but I hope the interesting socio-political technological advances retain the main narrative thrust. ( )
  reading_fox | Oct 7, 2018 |
This is set in the same universe as a previous book which I have not read but will now. The protagonist, an artist/geologist, arrives on Mars with a mission to paint landscapes on behalf of her corporate employer, but things start out very strange from the beginning: one of the current mission members is inexplicably hostile, another inexplicably intimate; she might be experiencing psychosis from too much virtual reality; her wedding ring is wrong—oh, and there’s a note waiting for her, in her own hand, telling her not to trust the mission psychologist. As the mystery unfolds, she also engages with her past trauma (her father was abusive and her mother keeps wanting her to forgive) and her possible rejection of her marriage and her infant child. The characters were complex and the situation was engaging, though there is a lot of tragedy. ( )
  rivkat | Sep 28, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Emma Newmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Amaerlle, AnxoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auerbach, AdamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Peter,
who understands the places this book came from
and loves me nonetheless
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I am not on this beach.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.

Finding a footprint in a place the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that her assignment isn't as simple as she was led to believe. Is she caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy, or is she actually losing her mind? Regardless of what horrors she might discover, or what they might do to her sanity, Anna has find the truth before her own mind destroys her.
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"Acclaimed author Emma Newman returns to the captivating Planetfall universe with a standalone dark tale of a woman stationed on Mars who slowly starts to doubt her own memories and sanity. 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. Finding a footprint in a place the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that her assignment isn't as simple as she was led to believe. Is she caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy, or is she actually losing her mind? Regardless of what horrors she might discover, or what they might do to her sanity, Anna has find the truth before her own mind destroys her"--"Hugo Award winner Emma Newman returns to the captivating Planetfall universe with a dark tale of a woman stationed on Mars who starts to have doubts about everything around her. After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist in residence--and already she feels she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth. In her room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note, painted in her own hand, warning her not to trust the colony psychiatrist. A note she can't remember painting. When she finds a footprint in a place that the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that she is caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy. Or is she losing her grip on reality? Anna must find the truth, regardless of what horrors she might discover or what they might do to her mind"--… (more)

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