The Vines of Mars by A.R.K. Watson

by | Sep 27, 2020 | Mystery, Science Fiction

Click to View the Book Trailer

Genre

Science Fiction

Audience

Highschool & Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2020

Themes

Mars, Planetary Colonization, Murder, Mystery, Family, Aliens, the Church, Forgiveness, Theology of the Body, Seven Sorrows of Mary, Mary, Generational Trauma, Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse  

Reviewed by

Mary Woods

Part alien story and part murder mystery, The Vines of Mars is a tale of humanity’s first permanent settlement on Martian soil. A culturally diverse but close-knit group of colonists scrape a harsh living out of the Martian desert. Meanwhile, a mysterious alien plant, known as the Vines, is taking over the surface of the planet. Although the Vines have terraformed Mars’ atmosphere to make it breathable, the strange plant is also a danger to the colony: it will crush homes and attack humans in its relentless search for water.

Tomás, a hardworking Martian farmer, knows the dangers of the Vines. He’s lost many friends and even family members to it: his sister, who ran away from the colony fifteen years previously, is presumed dead. So Tomás is shocked when a teenage boy who appears in town turns out to be his long-lost sister’s son. Somehow, his sister survived living in the lethal Martian jungle for years. Tomás sets out to find her, but discovers only her dead body, disfigured by flamethrower burns. The Vine didn’t kill his sister—someone has murdered her.

Tomás’ discovery sets off a series of events that begin to uncover the dark secrets of his small community. In his desire to discover the truth about his sister’s fate, he finds himself putting his own family and even the entire colony at risk. But every step of his investigation leads him closer to discovering the true nature of the deadly Vines.

I enjoyed A. R. K. Watson’s depiction of Mars’ first colony. Although the story takes place in the future, the isolated community feels like a small frontier town. Characters from many different cultural and religious backgrounds must work together to survive the planet’s unforgiving climate. I also enjoyed reading the details about the partially terraformed world. Although this version of Mars has a breathable atmosphere, it still has deadly dust storms and high radiation levels that the colonists must battle on a daily basis.

Religious themes are prominent in the story. Tomás is a practicing Catholic, but struggles in a realistic way both with his own faults and with the difficult teachings of the Church. One conflict that I thought was particularly well done was Tomás’ relationship with the colony’s Catholic bishop. Because of the seal of confession, the bishop finds himself compelled to conceal a crucial fact about the Vines that may endanger the colony. This painful conflict between faithfulness to the priesthood and the apparent good of the community was, I thought, well-handled.

Overall, the story presents an intriguing mystery with good character drama. The world is well-constructed with concrete, realistic details, but also includes a touch of the fantastic. The Vines of Mars is the first book in a planned series, so there are a few plot points that are unresolved by the end of the story. The exact nature of the Vines is still a mystery—one that I hope Watson will explore in her later books!

I’d recommend this book to teens and adults who enjoy stories about mysteries, alien encounters, and planetary colonization. The religious themes in the book make it particularly relevant to Christians, but do not exclude other audiences. The Vines of Mars sets up a fascinating world-building premise, and I look forward to seeing where A. R. K. Watson will take the story next.

Get Catholic Books & eBooks for as little as $1 to FREE

The City and The Dungeon by Matthew P. Schmidt

Who knew fighting monsters in a D&D dungeon could convince him that not everything can be attributed to a chance roll of the dice?

Strange Matter by Brian Niemeier

Ready for the end of the world, battle mechs, and body swaps? This collection of short stories has it all.

Nightside The Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

A groundbreaking classic that conveys the practical need for ritual and a Priesthood to a secular world.

From the Shadows by Jacqueline Brown

In a broken world, Bria tries to unite a family even as she struggles to keep hope alive.

Old Man & The Void by Karina Fabian

When Dex decides to catch the treasure of a century, he is pulled into a black hole and must fight the robotic ghosts of an alien war.

Breach! by Corinna Turner

Isaiah’s got a T-rex size problem, but this time, it’s not a dinosaur.

Ad Limina by Cy Kellet

The Bishop of Mars faces intergalactic espionage on his journey from the frontier of space to the ancient halls of the Vatican.

Sunrise on the Icewolf by Colleen Drippe

Helen grew up on a world ruled by women where showing interest in your father is taboo, but she will journey across planets to save him.

Pink Noise by Leonid Korogodski

A classic Martian adventure that plumbs the spiritual life of a future humanity.

The Joining by J. H. Dierking

The aliens will surprise you and lead you into greater insight into how our own bodily design determines much of what is considered right and wrong.

Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon By Corinna Turner 

A human-sheep hybrid’s friendships with a friendly vampire and a very angsty house-wolf are tested in this story that explores nature versus nurture. 

August & September New Book Releases

Step into Fall with a Good Book

I am Margaret by Corinna Turner

A dystopian nightmare that asks what you really believe and how far will you go to defend it.

House of War by Carlos Carrasco

With the government on the verge of outlawing Christianity, a group of Catholics launch a new Crusade.

Books for Lent

Deepen your Lenten reflection with these stories of repentance and forgiveness

The Light by Jacqueline Brown

Even as the world & nation she knew winks out of existence, Bria discovers family secrets that leave her questioning everything.

Freedom & Responsibility in “Citizen of the Galaxy” by Robert Heinlein

One of the masters of science fiction delivers a story exploring the limits of freedom and the ongoing battle against fallen human nature.

Dex’s Way by Karina Fabian

Surviving the Black Hole was only the first part, now Dex will have to survive the far future and reunite with Santiago.

Best of 2020

Yes some good things DID happen this year- Catholic creators have not let turmoil stop their mission.

Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

In a post-apocolyptic world a small Catholic monastery fights to preserve civilization for the next age.