Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Spotlight: Mars Burning (Saving Mars, Book 4) by Cidney Swanson

Cheers, Beardies!

First of all, a happy first anniversary to the Mars Rover Curiosity, and the happiest of Publication Days to Cidney Swanson! Mars Burning, Book Four of the Saving Mars Series, is live on Amazon today, and will arrive at your favorite bookseller soon! I was lucky enough to get an ARC from Cidney  though, so I don’t have to wait to bring you this Spotlight!

The Premise:
Following a disaster in the desert community of Yucca and the destruction of the M-Class ship on which they had hoped to make a safe (if unwelcome) return to Mars, Jessamyn and her friends are on the run—again. Their attempts to avoid the Terran Chancellor’s henchmen, re-establish contact with Mars Colonial, and complete the transfer of the Terran satellites to Mars Colonial Command keep them crisscrossing the globe at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Terran Chancellor Lucca Brezhnaya plots the destruction of the Red Planet, and back on Mars, Secretary-General Mei Lo faces an election against Cavanaugh Kipling, a conniving master liar whose plans pose just as much danger to the people of Mars Colonial as any enemy laser.

Gems for Writers:
World-Building.  Every time I think that the world-building in this series is as complete as it could possibly be, Cidney Swanson throws in another detail and leaves me shaking my head in awe. Although she admitted in the Author’s Note of the first book in the series that she is no astrophysicist, Cidney obviously did more than her share of research about what it would take to sustain human life on Mars. In this particular volume, she closely examines the perils faced by humans living on Mars in a most unorthodox manner.

Changing Viewpoints. Third-person omniscient narration is common, but Cidney Swanson has a rare gift for using it to its best advantage. The constantly shifting viewpoint allows the reader to witness events through the eyes of Jess, Mei Lo, the Terran Chancellor, Mei Lo’s political opponent, and a choice few members of the Terran Chancellor’s inner circle. In addition to broadening the viewpoint to make the story more readable, this keeps the chapters short and the pages turning, building suspense. Swanson is a master at plotting and pacing, and perfects her pacing using all available means.

Evolution of a Heroine. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: If Jessamyn Jaarda were not a fictional character, I would want her to be my best friend. I have loved watching her grow and change with each of the previous books, and in this book we see her really become who she was born to be—the girl who would throw the rule book out the window in order to follow her heart, who would risk everything to save her home. Even more gratifying is seeing others finally accept Jess as she is and value her for her uniqueness, especially as shown by the changing relationship between Jess and her former captain, Kipper.

Alter-Abilities. Jess’s brother, Ethan, is an expert computer hacker renowned on Mars for his brilliant inventions, and entrusted by Mars Colonial Command to transfer control of the Terran surveillance satellites orbiting Mars to Mars Colonial Command. Ethan is also what the Marsians consider “alter-abled,” and in our world, would probably be diagnosed with autism or Asperger Syndrome. The portrayal of his condition is tender, respectful, and downright beautiful. The reader comes to understand both his gifts and his limitations as they are explained in context, such as when Pavel explains to Jess that Ethan hums when under pressure because he experiences higher than normal levels of sensory perception, and humming helps him to neutralize unwanted stimuli. I applaud Cidney Swanson for tackling such a timely topic with such dignity, and sneaking in the odd teachable moment without falling victim to didacticism.


The world of the Saving Mars Series is one to which I continually return and enjoy more with each reread. I can’t thank Cidney enough for the pleasure and honor of being a first reader, and I’m so excited to see where she takes Jess and company next!

For the love of Mars!

***Mars Burning (2013) by Cidney Swanson is published by and copyright Williams Press. It is available in stores, online (see above), and from your local public library.

***Per FTC Regulations: I received a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC) from the author and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.

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