Travel Documents 62: Denver Moon

Denver Moon Series

Warren Hammond  (Author), Joshua Viola  (Author)
Genre: near-future, techno-thriller, neo-noir, colony building

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The Dust Cover Copy

Book One in the Denver Moon Series

Earth is dying. Luna is uninhabitable. Mars is our last chance.

Once considered humanity’s future home, Mars hasn’t worked out like anybody hoped. Plagued by crime and a terraforming project that’s centuries from completion, Mars is a red hell.

Denver Moon, P.I., works the dark underbelly of Mars City. While investigating a series of violent crimes linked to red fever—a Martian disorder that turns its victims into bloodthirsty killers—Denver discovers a cryptic message left by Tatsuo Moon, Mars City co-founder and Denver’s grandfather. The same grandfather who died two decades ago.

Twenty-year-old revelations force Denver on a quest for truth, but Tatsuo’s former friend, Cole Hennessy, leader of the Church of Mars, has other plans and will stop at nothing to keep Denver from disclosing Tatsuo’s secrets to the world.

Hell-bent on reclaiming her grandfather’s legacy, Denver—along with her AI implant, Smith, companion android, Nigel, and shuttle pilot, Navya—set out on a quest to find the answers they hope will shed light on the church’s true agenda, the origin of red fever, and the mysteries surrounding Tatsuo’s tragic death.

 

Book Two in the Denver Moon Series

Six months have passed since Denver Moon, P.I., smashed The Minds of Mars into the red planet, destroying the ship’s horrific cargo and delaying the alien danger of human mind control. Now, in the dark underbelly of Mars City, Denver and her faithful AI-installed pistol, Smith, are hot on the trail of a suspect they believe is responsible for the disappearance of numerous citizens in Red Tunnel. But as they close in on the culprit, they uncover an even greater threat. An android revolution is stirring within the ranks of the Church of Mars, and its leader is an old enemy who aims to settle scores and shatter the fragile balance of power on Mars.

The Deets

The Scene

Worldbuilding

This isn’t the 1950s future we hoped for, at all. This is the gritty future we earned. Humanity has run to Mars as Earth dies. People live in cramped living spaces while the slow work of terraforming grinds on outside. People randomly come down with a fever endemic to Mars that drives them insane, an echo back to the consumption literature and morbidity of yesteryear. People pray for a deliverance they do not expect to see.

It’s a claustrophobic and completely believable world: hot, gritty, and viscerally realized. There’s classicism, religious fervor, and the smell of frying food in the streets. There’s red dust in the air you breathe, in spite of the filters. You can imagine walking its streets, and the physical discomforts it would bring. This world is one you wouldn’t want to live in…but you can sure feel yourself immersed in it while you read.

 

The Crowd

Characterization

The characterization here is stellar. We may be seeing through point of view of Denver Moon, who strikes readers as emotionally distant to begin with, but around her are so many clever and fascinating characters. As the story unfolds, Denver comes out of her shell and unfolds her complexities for us. She feels too deeply to allow her emotions out all at once. She is too loyal to allow very many into her inner circle.

The characterization is realized, mainly, in small interpersonal moments. But the storyline hinges on the making of impossible choices, and how the human soul is tested in the making of them. Some humans take one road, some another.  This was explored beautifully in the characters of Ojisan and Hennessy. What is right and moral depends, sometimes, on how you change your point of view.

But Denver does not hold with that thinking. Some things are wrong, period. And she’s set to put them right.
Her supporting cast is equally complex and a lot of fun. Her AI sidekick Smith is particularly well-imagined and deftly executed, exploring what it would really mean to have his type of consciousness without losing the quality of an endearing old friend.

The Lingo

Writing Style

Written in the cinematic style reminiscent of the Expanse, the story moves at a solid clip. It keeps you so laser focused on the main event that the surprise twist of the climax hits like a Mack truck. Nice trick! Throw in just enough quips to keep things fun, and you’re set.

As a reader, I was kept fully engaged and fascinated all the way through. I usually bounce between working on my own stuff, the siren call of social media and a book, but this series I sat down and read all the way through. That’s high praise from me.

The Moves

Plot

In plot style, the Denver Moon series most closely resembles a noir novel. A problem is put before the protagonist, and they focus in on it like a laser, only to be broadsided by unexpected complexities and a much BIGGER problem that T-bones their investigation. It’s a solid convention that can be used well or badly. Here it was used beautifully in both books. Like a good magician, the writers pull the rug out from under the reader and leave them grinning in amazement. I always like to be surprised in a book, and both Book 1 and Book 2 pulled that off.

Overall Rating

 

Another great entry for the neo-noir spec-fic category. Adventure fans, buckle up! You’ll love this one.