Title: Collision (Phobos #3)
Author: Victor Dixen (translated by Daniel Hahn)
Edition: Paperback, Hot Key Books
The sequel to Ascension and Distortion (reviewed on GoodReads) left me alternately cheering and shouting at the page. A great plot, a relatable central character, and some serious tension – brought down by a plot point I couldn’t accept, some terrible science, and an ending that left too many elements unresolved.
I’ll start with the positives. Collision continues the story from the first two books, picking up from the final scene of Distortion and exploring the consequences of the betrayal that marked the climax of Book 2. The twelve teenagers who took part in the speed-dating reality TV show on their way to Mars in Ascension are living in the Martian base, married, and working to extend the base to accommodate the contestants from Season 2. Faced with the revelations from the end of Distortion, the colonists have to decide how to respond, and how they want their new Martian society to develop. As they consider their actions, they are all aware that their decisions will set a precedent for the future running of the base.
Meanwhile, on Earth, their support network is under threat. The portrayal of the powerful antagonist becomes even more extreme and cartoonish, provoking international hostility, and putting the future of the colony at risk. There is deception on Earth and on Mars, and everyone is hiding something. As the secrets are uncovered, and the truth threatens lives on both planets, the stakes are raised for a nail-biting conclusion.
There is less of the body-shaming and sexism in Collision than in the previous books, which made it easier to read without shouting at the pages. The story moves on from the excitement of the speed-dating to the realities of long-term relationships, and long-term Martian settlement. There are serious clashes and disagreements between the colonists, and serious consequences – but there are also opportunities for them to stand together and defend each other when faced with unreasonable demands from Earth. The terrible science is back, but I was happy to ignore the details in order to follow the story. My major complaint is with the betrayal that ends Distortion and begins Collision. I could not bring myself to accept the severity of the confession – not at the end of Book 2, and not as the consequences played out in Book 3. I found that I had to ignore my doubts, and accept that the characters felt betrayed – even if I couldn’t see why. Once I accepted the premise, the plot kept me engaged. I cared about the characters, I cared about the story, and I cared about the mounting threats to the mission.
Which makes the ending so much worse. Collision kept the story exciting and engaging for a hefty 723 pages. It kept me interested, and it kept me reading. But on page 723? The story doesn’t end. One section of the story draws to a close, but nothing is resolved. The beliefs of the Mars cult, introduced in Collision, are unexplored. The illness of one of the colonists remains undiagnosed and incurable. The final page is the setup for a sequel.
And there’s the problem. There is a sequel, if you’re reading in French. Phobos 4 tells the next part of the story. The blurb is on the French publisher’s web page, and the book has 4.5-star reviews on GoodReads – but it hasn’t been translated. On the back covers of all three books published in the UK, there are images of the first three books, suggesting that the series is a trilogy.
It isn’t. So – Victor Dixen, Daniel Hahn, and Hot Key Books – we need Phobos 4! I may have a love/hate relationship with the Phobos books, but I need to know how the story ends! It’s that, or I polish up my A-level French and see how much I can read without a translation. Wish me luck …
Have you read the Phobos series? What did you think of the story – and what did you think of the ending? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!
Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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