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A Step Beyond    by C. K. Anderson order for
Step Beyond
by C. K. Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
iPublish, 2001 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

This is the hardest of hard-core science fiction set in our near future (2021) but strangely reminiscent of some early SF magazine stories in its meticulous attention to technological and medical detail and its quasi-documentary style. After a Russian mission to Mars fails disastrously, a joint American / Russian mission is undertaken, though in two separate ships. On the US ship Liberty a crew member suffers a ruptured appendix. Though operated on successfully, the coincidental occurrence of a major solar flare prevents his recovery. On the Russian ship Druzhba meanwhile, tension is rising as the pilot becomes increasingly jealous of his wife, also a crew member, whose attraction to the Commander of the Russian mission, and vice versa, is apparent.

Despite the problems, the ships eventually achieve an orbit around Mars, and make the descent to the surface in landing craft, again separately to different destinations; the Americans to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the Solar System; the Russians to Valles Marineris, a great chasm dwarfing the Grand Canyon on Earth. Their explorations on the surface lead through many dangers to some strange and exciting discoveries, but their return to Earth is jeopardised by both mechanical and personal failures. The hard-core SF buff should certainly appreciate this novel, as will those ancients like myself with fond memories of the genre's early days.

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