By: Sandy Samson
Publisher: Purple Sword Publications
Publication Date: May 2010
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: September 29, 2010
A mysterious disaster strikes the scientific outpost on Mars. The crew calls for help, and then isn’t heard from again. An apparently hastily constructed rescue team sets off into unknown but certain danger in an effort to discover the fate of the crew on Mars. But something is amiss. Intrigue and suspicion plague the rescue team, and the pilot, John Hellman, suspects there is a spy - or worse, a killer - among the seemingly ragtag crew. Have the power-holders behind the mission sent them into certain catastrophe? Why does this expedition seem designed to fail? And what is the terrifying force that violently is terrorizing human life on Mars? Page by eagerly turned page, Red Dust and Bones scatters clues and innuendo that keep readers guessing until the very end of this mystery, sci-fi adventure novel by Sandy Samson.
Our protagonist in space is John Hellman, an experienced pilot and one of the few military officers in the crew. Within spitting distance of idyllic retirement to a farm in the country, John remains uncertain why he was chosen for this mission. As a good soldier, he bravely follows his orders, even when thrust into situations that force him seriously to question the motives behind those orders. He has enough heart (and insecurity) in his unexpected leadership to be a prime vehicle for the reader’s viewpoint. We watch the action in space through John’s eyes, and as the intrigue becomes more nefarious, we relate to John’s perplexity and worry. John questions in frustration, “Have you ever been on a mission where nobody trusts anybody else? A mission where one screw up after another happens?...Hell, have you ever been on a mission where the medical officer orders everybody out of the room in some kind of paranoid fit, and the ranking officer has to refuse to go?” Things just don’t add up, and the disasters on board keep mounting.
Meanwhile on Earth, John’s wife Maria, a highly esteemed scientist seeking to decode Martian samples, finds herself propelled into her side of the treacherous mystery. Maria also has more questions than answers for the higher-ups, “Why do you guys keep us tied up in knots? I’ve got a team ready to go on this thing, ready to start finding some answers. Answers that might mean the difference between success or failure at the station...Why do you keep throwing us one scrap at a time, then tie our hands when we do get to see something interesting?” Indeed secrecy abounds, even between husband and wife, leaving the readers to conclude that whoever or whatever is behind it, this operation is on a grand scale of global impact.
With canny ability, Samson keeps the action at red-alert for much of the story. Red Dust and Bones is hard to put down, in a similar way as a Michael Crichton book can be. Indeed this novel also shares a Crichton-esque commentary on human cockiness and greed in the face of the unexplored worlds beyond.
While John frantically attempts to determine who or what is killing crew members at the Martian station, Maria finds herself running for her life while locked in battle with her own baffling and powerful enemy. Both spouses race to combat evil forces, both Martian and Earthling. Meanwhile, greed, politics and a determination to rule the worlds pervade it all.
Quill says: Mystery, science fiction and adventure thrillingly combine to make Red Dust and Bones a compelling and satisfying read.
For more information on Red Dust and Bones, please visit the author's website at www.sandysamson.com