Have you read this book?
Methodical readers will want to know up front that the The Fifth Man by John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson is a sequel to their Christy-award-winning “Oxygen.” Let me assure you that I am living proof that you can enjoy the sequel without having read the original. The frequent references to the backstory, however, interested me enough that I will eventually seek out the first novel to fill in the adventures of these likable characters.
These two novels tell the story of NASA’s first manned trip to Mars. Apparently the first one describes the crews’ precarious flight from earth to Mars in which all manner of things go wrong.
In the second one, which is under review here, the four-person crew is already on Mars for their projected two-year stay. Mayhem quickly ensues as Mars Madness appears to descend on one or more of the crew. And then there’s the discovery of Martian bacteria – life on Mars! Which promptly leads to infection and violent illness. But is this a Mars fever or an illness from earth bacteria that hitchhiked on the journey across space?
And is there really a fifth man on the planet that is wreaking havoc with their equipment and supplies?
The Fifth Man is suspenseful sci-fi. Think the last half of “Andromeda Strain,” “Jurassic Park,” or any other Crichton novel. There are many twists in the plot that keep the reader guessing all the way to the last page. There is lots of action, lots of science, and a little bit of romance.
Characterizations tend to be on the light side as is often the case in such highly plot-driven stories. But they are drawn well enough to care about. And to hope that the authors are planning a third novel in this series.