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Denver Moon: The Thirteen of Mars
Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola
Hammond and Viola again blend old-school pulp thrills with contemporary S.F. tech and anxieties in the third installment of the Denver Moon series, which has found humanity fleeing the wastelands of Earth for Mars—and the eponymous private eye Denver Moon working cases in that “red hell”’s seediest city. The action picks up in the aftermath of The Saints of Mars, in which shapeshifting “bug” aliens eager to enslave humanity infiltrated Mars City. This time, as humanity at large is about to learn not just that aliens exist but that they’re at war with us, Moon and co. must turn to the biggest bug of them all—her nemesis, the “cockroach” Doctor Werner—to understand the bugs’ plot … and to save the life of someone close to her and essential to the fight.

The twist? Doctor Werner seems to have fled to the one place more dangerous than a war with the bugs—Earth. As in previous Moon adventures, Hammond and Viola deftly build suspense and intrigue while immersing readers in the underbelly of humanity’s desperate future, offering spirited, inventive setpieces taking full advantage of their universe’s tech and characters. A surprise eye operation early on is a standout here, and the tour into humanity’s past, like some of the story’s darker twists, is touching, especially Moon’s awed first glimpse of abandoned Tokyo still magnificent beneath the smog choking humanity’s home.

Moon remains a memorable protagonist, a woman facing what she thinks of as “a shameful trail of addictions and failed relationships” yet always capable of rousing herself to crack the case, make the hard choice, and take care of the secondary family she’s accumulated over three books. Facing tragedy, she still gets it done. For all its inventive AIs, aliens, nanobots, and revelations, what sets this series apart is heart and character, which its detective lead boasts in abundance. New readers should start with the first book.

Takeaway: This gripping Martian adventure pits a detective against bug aliens and human tragedy.

Great for fans of: James S.A. Corey, Robert J. Sawyer’s Red Planet Blues.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-