Review: Redline, by Carol Parsons

Although my primary interest in both reading and writing is Science Fiction and Fantasy—really, all the sub- and sub-sub- genres under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction—I cut a lot of my reading teeth on Westerns. Louis L’Amour, Zane Gray, Max Brand, Luke Short, and a lot of lesser known authors. Other reading teeth were cut on mysteries by Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Anyway, no spoilers here except that there are no little green men or lost alien civilizations. The Martians of Redline are third generation descendants of the first colonists from Earth.

First and foremost, Redline is science fiction set on Mars after colonists arrived on the terraformed planet, which now provides enough atmosphere to sustain life, but it’s a challenging life. A life for people with pioneer spirit, hard-working and more than a little hardheaded, brave visionaries willing to put muscle into making their dreams come true. Natural dangers abound—winters rival the most brutal Antarctic conditions and the storms can be deadly to the unprepared—but the politics of a faraway colony brings more subtle dangers. Certain people on Earth want control of environmental matters on Mars and, by extension, control of the colonists, most of whom don’t take kindly to such interference.

Aside from the technology and Martian setting, Redline also embraces the most engaging aspects of those old Westerns as well as touches of mystery and adventure (and even a bit of feisty romance). Parson’s characters are well-rounded, and the glimpses into their daily lives amid growing mayhem is utterly absorbing.

This isn’t, however, simply a story fancied up with tech and dry facts which could take place anywhere else. Parson’s research and extrapolations about the directions colonization of our neighboring planet might take are intriguing, thought-provoking, but worked into the story so smoothly, I found it naturally matter-of-fact, easy to take its exotic realities for granted. On Mars, there are descendants of imported caribou herds (rather than horses or cattle). The trains running from town-to-town are maglev (magnetic levitation), carrying people, supplies, and trade goods. The close-knit Martian families garden and make much of what they need. They enjoy restaurants and dances. They have a sense of humor as well as fortitude. They even take showers.

But there are enmities, too, born of jealousy , bitterness, or the hunger for power. Ultimately, there are betrayals which will affect not only the main characters but also the settlements and futures of the people on Mars.

Science Fiction, adventure, mystery, romance, intrigue—with a Western flair. Redline is a fascinating and fun blend of genres. Makes me want to load up the next interplanetary moving van to Mars.

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