Book Reviews

Review: Before Mars by Emma Newman

While I loved a lot of things about Before Mars – including the honest conversations about motherhood – it never really grabbed me. The suspense was there, but the pacing felt like it was all suspense and then introspection the next moment.


After months of travel, Anna Kubrick finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team.

But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake.

Finding a footprint in a place the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that her assignment isn’t as simple as she was led to believe. Is she caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy, or is she actually losing her mind? Regardless of what horrors she might discover, or what they might do to her sanity, Anna has find the truth before her own mind destroys her.


book review Before mars by emma newman(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

This seemed to me very similar in plots to a variety of other books I’ve recently read. It was like The Martian meets The Girl on the Train. It felt like while it took place on Mars, a lot of the actual action or page time in the book was devoted to the character’s mindframe and the suspense. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great questions about technology, which I’ll get to below, but the suspense and characters sort of over powered the book.

My thoughts

  • Anna is a great character, but I’m totally biased. I love when mothers portray a different image of motherhood than what we expect. For Anna, it wasn’t this instant love connection with her child, and there are real struggles and challenges she has with being a mother. I almost skipped from these sections because they were fascinating. We have this idea, in Western culture at least, about this innate motherhood quality, about the ways people can butt in about the roles of mothers, and about what makes a good mother. So seeing Anna tackle these issues was truly fantastic and which may have saved the entire book for me. I could not get enough of it.
    • There’s a bunch of “crazy” words thrown around and this felt insensitive. Mostly because Anna can be paranoid and the suspense.
  • Speaking of suspense, there was so much. It felt almost like this whole thing would explode. And the suspense is established from the very beginning. I wanted there to be more brought up with it – and faster.
    • In general, my main concern with this book was pacing. It felt like there would be tons of suspense, then all introspection, then a tiny bit more suspense, and then repeat. It didn’t feel fluid and it felt more like being jerked around.
  • I sincerely liked the interaction Anna had with the AI system. Can AI systems lie? This whole question and the role the AI plays in the book was really cool – if not food for thought.


While I enjoyed Anna’s character, the book didn’t hold me or keep me reading. I was considering calling it a day around 30% through, but stuck it out because I wanted to see how Anna developed. The pacing just let me either uninterested or on hyper alert. Check out Before Mars on Goodreads.


Have you ever failed to finish a book?

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