Title: Retrograde | Author: Peter Cawdron | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Pub. Date: 2017-9-12 | Pages: 256 | ISBN13: 9781328834553 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the publisher for review consideration
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?
Peter Cawdron’s Retrograde immediately grabbed my attention and kept it. It made me want to finish it. (That’s rare lately.) I read Retrograde over the course of a few hours. It’s well-written, fast-paced, and while not entirely unique still completely interesting. (I can only think of one or two movies that I would liken this too.) The dialogue was believable. The connectedness something I wanted to root for. And the way it was written kept me feeling as isolated as the astronauts actually were.
Retrograde takes a left turn at Albuquerque that leaves the reader scratching their head for a bit. It’s interesting, and ultimately I really liked it, but there were definitely a few minutes of “Wait, what?” involved. The way Peter Cawdron handles it is not how one usually sees the subject approached. That handling (It wasn’t better or worse, just different) is probably a big part of why the happenings threw me off my game for a bit.
There are some sensitive subjects addressed in Retrograde, but they are deftly handled. The disaster on Earth is horrifying, but very little time is spent describing what happens. The action on Mars can get a bit bloody at times, but it’s nothing overly graphic. Death does happen, but the author does not linger on it. In short, even though this has some horrific elements to it, I would not call Retrograde a sci-fi horror novel. More of an exploration of the darker parts of science fiction.
A quick read with a nice twist and an ending that will leave you thinking, Retrograde isn’t your normal science fiction disaster book. Peter Cawdron does a good job of hooking the reader, and keeping them thinking about the book after the last page has been turned. Some of the questions asked are almost as old as science fiction themselves, and yet we still haven’t found satisfactory answers to them. Perhaps we never will.
Well done on Peter Cawdron’s part. Retrograde is a solid stand-alone novel. Can’t wait to read more from him.