*Just for the record, if the option had been available, I would have rating this 3 1/2 stars, as I believe the book to be above average, but just shy of a 4 star rating. So, as usual, please ignore the star rating all together*
The Mars Run presents an interesting twist on the standard space travel fare. In Chris Gerrib's vision of the space travel strips the glamour and sense of status from astronauts and turns them into "the lowest form of life in space." Gerrib's world makes space travel such a mundane activity that astronauts are little more than repairmen, taking all the risks of the job without any of the respect that would normally be granted to the occupation. Thrown into this world is 18-year old Janet Pilgrim, a young woman forced to enter the space program instead of attending college after her father spent her college fund on yet another get-rich-quick scheme gone wrong.
Gerrib opens his space opera strong, dropping the reader right in the middle of the terrible training accident that kills Janet's boyfriend. Janet is held partially responsible for the accident, but allowed to complete her astronaut training. She is finally assigned to her first real mission. Unfortunately, the mission rapidly goes horribly wrong when space pirates strike. Pilgrim convinces the pirates that she's worth more alive than dead, and is recruited into their ranks. As Pilgrim plots her revenge against the pirates, she becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue, misdirection, and deceit that crosses the galaxy.
The Mars Run is one of those books that are an exciting, light read, but falls apart if you think too much about it. While the character of Janet Pilgrim is in and of herself entertaining to follow, she never feels like a real 18-year-old would-be college student. She seems too indifferent at times, and at others she feels too much like the oft-copied wise-cracking, sexy heroines of TV shows geared at twenty-somethings. Scene describing Pilgrim forced to wear dog collars and sexy bikinis are not so much offensive to feminist sensibilities, but instead such a clique as to be merely annoying. Many of the incidents in the book feel contrived, as if the writer became stuck with a scene and wasn't sure how to get around it.
But to be sure, fans of hard science fiction will appreciate Gerrib's attention to realism. Technology is presented evenly and believably, and with such a subtle hand that the reader might forget this is suppose to be science fiction and not the real world. Action scenes are crisp and visceral, really throwing the reader into the mix with the characters. And while the protagonist may not always be believable, thankfully the supporting cast of characters has distinct personalities and obvious motivations to keep the reader caring about what happens to them. Overall, The Mars Run will appeal to readers looking for a sense of action and adventure in their fiction choices.