Coffee with Sugar and a Side of Existential Dread
Review of Mission to Mars: The Last Diaspora Book 2
By Tom Pahlow
Adventure, copious amounts of coffee and the ever-present existential dread of existing in a meaningless world with no purpose. All this and more can be found in Mandy Gardner’s second instalment of The Last Diaspora series, Mission to Mars.
In book two of the series, we come back to earth and follow Aldi Mirous through the chaotic events that lead to her orbiting Mars on a one-woman mission to claim the red planet. From her early days as a diviner in the mysterious Ancestry Cult to homelessness and then to Project Mars. Along the way, watch her grow to trust others, take agency in her own life and question the dominant social structures that underpin our ultimately meaningless capitalist lives. Oh, and drink what seems like an absurd amount of coffee for a teenager.
Just like Letters to Earth, Mission to Mars focused on the personal growth of the main character. Born and raised in isolation only to be ‘liberated’ and then completely forgotten, Aldi was an incredibly interesting character to follow. As an outsider who questioned everything we think of as normal, Aldi’s perspective made me think about all the strange things that make up our society.
Anyone got any of those digital numbers?
A little more philosophical than Zed in book one, Aldi is constantly questioning the status quo of life outside of the Pits. Deceptively perceptive, she notes the unhappiness and the drudgery of a life without purpose. But she also reflects on her exploitation by her masters in the cult. She faces what most of us struggle with when the ease of childhood is over, constantly trying to understand our place in the world.
As a reader who always gets stuck in the lore of a universe, I was very excited to get a better insight into the Ancestry Cult. A completely different, and subterranean, way of life to the rest of the world. Though after finishing the book, I must confess to having even more questions about the amalgamation of religions, social structure and apparent cannibalism they engage in. Well done Gardner, you’ve got me eagerly awaiting the next instalment so I can find out more!
I did find myself wishing to know more about the other characters in the book. Each was introduced with such vivid imagery and mannerisms that I wanted to find out more. But other than Trinia, they all seemed to mainly be around as was needed by Aldi, though I suppose that makes sense in the grand scheme of things.
Overall, Mission to Mars and The Last Diaspora in general are stories about adventure. In a world that has been explored, pioneers look to the skies. Aldi joins Zed as an adventurer as humanity looks beyond the world that raised us and into the future.
Just like these brave adventurers, the series is on the precipice of discovery. And just like Aldi and Zed, I find myself looking forward to what comes next!