The “Red Desert” series is Near-Future Science Fiction, its plot concerning a very realistic guess as to how the initial colonization of Mars might go. The story skips back and forth between the colonists and the people back on Earth who interact with them, and readers need to be prepared for the point-of-view jumps that are required.
There are two intertwining conflicts that emerge: the interpersonal difficulties of a small group of people in a restricted space, added to a set of mysterious behavioural changes, possibly brought on by a contamination with Martian biological matter. Exacerbated, of course, by the attempts of those on earth to influence technological and mental problems that are not restricted to the Red Planet.
The combination of these pressures on the human psyche sets the colonists on a rampage of violence and murder. The main character of the series, Anna, is forced into two detective roles, scientific and legal, to try and figure out what is going on. And survive at the same time.
The unfortunate flaw with this book is that it has been translated from the original Italian, and the translation is not very good. The errors range from grammar mistakes to sentences that make no sense at all. The most difficult part of this is the “scientific” explanations for the fictional biology that causes the conflict in the story. We expect a certain amount of impressive jargon in this genre, but the added layer of poor English makes it incomprehensible in places. I would normally not review a book with such a problem, but I know from experience how difficult it is to edit translated material, and how impossible for a second-language author to know how well the edit is done. I hope most readers will extend Ms. Monticelli the same courtesy.
Besides. I like the story. There is believable (if complex) science, pushed-to-the-limit psychology, wonderful descriptions of the alien environment, and great action sequences.
This book is part of a series, almost a serial, and while I found Invisible Enemy the best read of the series, I strongly suggest that you start at the beginning to tune in with the various plotlines. Recommended for Action-Adventure and “realistic” Sci-Fi fans.
Four Stars out of Five