Pyr, Apr 27 2010, $16.00
On Mars, Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th dreams of replacing her father as the Engineer of the Catherine of Tharsis train. However, she also knows of the gender ban as females are prohibited from driving trains. Now eight Martian years old, her family arranges her marriage to a Stuard clan, who drive a different train.
Headstrong, Sweetness rejects wedding the Stuard lad. Knowing her options is saying I do or running away, Sweetness flees her train home accompanied by Serpio Waymender of a lower caste clan as they only are a trackbuilding group. Her clan is disgraced and she is subject to execution for humiliating them amidst the train driving families. The runaways cross the desert seeking Devastation Harx, the leader of a mail-order religious clan living on an airship; the sect apparently has the sprit of Sweetness’ dead twin sister “captured”. However, her late sibling “Little Pretty One” is nothing like she expected and Sweetness learns the meaning of betrayal as Harx has plans for the twin to gain control over the angels who control the Martian climate. At the same her Grandmother Taal searches for her Sweetness.
The sequel to Desolation Road is a superb Martian thriller that reads more like a fantasy than a science fiction. The courageous obstinate heroine is terrific as she holds the fascinating but convoluted story line together while making a journey through all types of alternate Martian landscapes. Fans will relish Ares Express although keep the plausibility meter in the drawer as at times the plot goes over the top of Olympus Mons.