R. Clarinard/M. Ollivier
L'ombre de Mars ("The Shadow of Mars") (1997)
Reviewed: 1998-11-29

They didn't tell us everything. The last images sent by the Viking 1 Mars probe in 1976 showed the approach of a mysterious, possibly humanoid shadow. Since then a manned Mars mission has been prepared in secrecy by Earth's governments. Now the nuclear-powered space vessel Omega with its international crew of a military commander (who is the sole crew member to know of the discovery), a ship's surgeon, and twenty scientists has arrived in orbit around the Red Planet.

A four-person expedition is sent to the surface. Shortly after the small base has been set up, strange occurrances start to happen. A mysterious being stalks the Martian landscape and threatens the explorers. A scientist is lost in a dust storm and returns inexplicably changed. Equipment is destroyed. Traces of an incredible past of the arid and dead planet are found. Further revelations and dangers are to follow.

This first novel of the authors really heaps up the clichés. Mars, the haunted planet. Mars, the ancient world, that in former ages held life and advanced civilization. How original. According to a blurb on the rear cover, Ollivier writes TV screenplays. Indeed, the book bears much resemblance to a cheesy TV show. The authors try without success to instill an atmosphere of horror by scattering vague hints, implausibly retaining information, and having the characters act irrational. It doesn't say so anywhere, but L'ombre de Mars feels like a book for younger readers. The plot is straightforward, there is about zero characterization. The whole book oozes simplicity on every level.

Amateurish and forgettable.

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