Our first impressions of A Slice of Mars

Find out The Space Girls’ first impressions of SPSFC3 contestant, A Slice of Mars by Guerric Haché.

As part of the Self-Published Sci-Fi Competition, my team (The Space Girls) has been given 25 books to read. Of this initial allocation (or ‘slush pile’), we are reading the first 30% and then voting Yes or No on whether we’d like to continue reading further. You can see our full allocation in my previous blog.

Here are the team’s first impressions of A Slice of Mars by Guerric Haché. (You can find all of our first impressions posts here.)

The cover of A Slice of MarsBook blurb

Mars is a strange place these days. Corporate overlords, capitalism, and even aging are things of the past on a planet increasingly brimming with biodiversity – yet pizzerias are in short supply!

Siblings Hett and San set out to change that. But a roboticist and a bureaucrat can’t run a restaurant alone, so they bring on some help – a bioengineer, a communications scientist, and an unlikely grad student from Earth. Together, this gang of geeks will brave the fires of small business.

But work is just a small part of life. People are complicated. Different brains, different wounds, different values, and one questionably tame wildcat will all collide as they try to grow and succeed together. What comes out of the oven, in the end, is anyone’s guess.

Goodreads / Amazon

Our first impressions

Katherine: Refreshingly well written. Interesting way of building the setting through interviewing people for the pizza place, and very good characters. Nice representation of autism in Dhapree. Good commentary on the current state of the internet, what the internet is shaping up to be, and what the internet could be if handled differently.

Not my usual pace, of course. By 30% they’ve still not opened the pizza place yet, but the interaction between the characters is so well done that I didn’t mind. I’ve been recommending it to everyone I meet ever since, mostly because of the society it lays out in its pages. (Y)

Nancy: I wish to first mention that Guerric’s prior work known as the Digitesque series is magnificent and I encourage anyone to give it a shot. (It’s really, really, really good).

I am Latin American and can be very nitpicky when it comes to the realism of Latin American characters in books by people from other countries. I also must mention we are not a cultural monolith. At approx 660 million people, one could find people with all sorts of political opinions. So I did give Diego a bit of initial leeway with some things he does such as mention ad-nauseum his entire 4 names. As a heads up, the only times people mention all their names in a friendly social setting are in telenovelas. Seeing someone speak like that in a casual setting will likely make their peers laugh.

From what I have read of the book, it is hinted Diego is South American from an unspecified region. I am veering a bit more towards Colombia. Diego’s low-key behaviour towards his neighbours after Hett ditched him when he got very sick to help San felt very odd to me. If Diego had been a Mexican, this would have been considered a social no-no (a very grievous degree of bad social etiquette) and he would have treated Hett in particular very poorly afterwards. I spotted countless other things in the prose that kept on making me shake my head and wonder why is Diego behaving in the complete opposite of the average Latin American.

And I do think it was a wasted opportunity because I could totally see a story where Diego would have chided the protagonists after their disastrous first encounter. San would be indifferent because of a spoilery secret reason, Hett would be wondering what he did wrong to offend Diego so badly and the other two business partners would be intrigued. I think Qirao would have gotten along the best with Diego.

I do love how the book portrays Neurodiverse characters with a huge degree of realism. I also loved how Mars has social etiquette rules where people saying a sarcastic joke send a chatbox message in real time to the other person about what the jist of the joke is to avoid confusing the other person. The fact Diego isn’t written with sufficient realism felt like a huge wasted opportunity to have a strong bumpy start of the pizza business.

The book is certainly good, but it is one of those stories where I want to tear it up and rewrite the whole thing instead of enjoying reading it. I do still believe the vast majority of readers will adore it. (N)

Kerry: Overall I enjoyed this though there were times where I personally thought some parts were annoyingly overlong. Information that seemed to be irrelevant to the plot – I would of liked to have less “telling” as it were. The Martian worldbuilding was excellent and top marks for that – Haché’s “slice” of life in starting up a Martian pizza shop was great.

Some of the character’s were not compelling and this is where my investment in the book slipped.

The “mandalas” though – chef’s kiss! (Y)

Status: Quarter-finalist