Most books about Mars end up being about alien life. Peter Cawdron’s Retrograde does not go this route. The Mars colonists are made aware that there was an epic nuclear strike on major cities back on Earth. This news ends up driving a wedge between the different mods who argue about which country is at fault. Liz, the main character, seeks out answers from the other colonists to find out the truth. However, the truth she seeks is far from what she imagined.
Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they’re protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?
In Retrograde, each country has sent scientists and researchers to the desolate planet. Knowledge of the nuclear strike on Earth ends up dividing the different groups, or mods: U.S Module, Chinese Module, Russian Module and Eurasian Module. Liz takes it upon herself to mend the strife between colonists, stating that they are Martians and what happened on Earth should not affect them. She wants the four modules to come together as colonists, insisting that their current situation should take precedence.
There is some mystery to the novel. There was a shipment sent up to the colony but supposedly, it missed its trajectory. But it doesn’t seem to be the case. Liz ends up trying to find the missing ship in the Mars desert but almost loses her life in the process.
Now, here is where the horror element comes in play. Liz comes back to the colony but not in good condition. She ends up in the medical bay where she wakes up next to her dead friend. The air had been turned off in that area; Liz only survived because she had been getting oxygen directly. At first, I thought that this is sabotage from others, either in the other modules or even the Davis, the NASA mission controller. The book goes into a completely different direction that I didn’t see coming.
As a lover of thrillers and horror, I wanted maybe just a little more description in regards to the death scenes and battle sequences in Retrograde. But this book is a sci-fi thriller, so it makes perfect sense to focus more on the science aspects of the book. I enjoyed it because I tend to read a lot of science fiction, but some people might feel bogged down with the science.
Overall, Peter Cawdron created a realistic science fiction world for the first Mars colony. There were many twists and turns that kept me thoroughly engaged. If you like science fiction thrillers then this is the book for you. I would give it a 3 out of 5.