Retrograde by Peter Cawdron [The Best Sci-fi book I’ve read this year]

Retrograde’s blurb caught my attention quicker than cake and that’s saying something. It’s about a colony of humans from all walks of Earth settling on Mars for research. But how will things turn out when nuclear war devastates everyone back home?

This book revolved around such an interesting concept. A far as I know, The Martian by Andy Weir deals with a short-term journey to Mars gone wrong but this book deals with the long-term situation with not one but a whole group of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. 

The story is told from the POV of Liz, a US colonist. The book doesn’t shift POV’s and despite that, we were able to get a perfect idea of the situation in all the 4 modules on Mars, which included the US, the Russians, the Eurasians and the Chinese. I was amazed at how well this was done. To be writing from one character’s perspective but to be able to accurately gauge the other characters around them in such a way that I was able to connect with them all.

As mentioned before, the characters were on point. Usually, sci-fi book characters aren’t easy to connect with because the characters seem very detached and machine-like but Peter Cawdron has written great characters, all of whom I fell in love with.

The writing is so simple, which is odd when it comes to science fiction because people lose themselves among all the big and mighty science words. However, I never once felt confused.

The plot in itself is so unique. The concept not only blew my mind but also filled me with dread. I couldn’t NOT think about being in a nuclear explosion. Even though I know that there is no way I would feel anything because I would be dead within seconds, it’s still a jarring thought. And the thought of being on Mars amidst all that? Unimaginable.

This book is so detailed about how one would go about surviving on Mars. And as someone who loves science and sciency books, I knew just how much research the author must have done to get the sciency bits so accurate and realistic. It added a perfect touch to this fabulous book.

I also love how this book, while being categorised as science-fiction deals a LOT with the psychology of the human mind too. Which was very interesting because I think that had a huge role to play for the reason why I got so attached to the characters.

The research on the cultures was also done perfectly. Being an Indian myself, I have always loved the Asian culture and to see the various cultures of our continent being positively represented in such a good book filled me with pride.

Last but not the least, I loved that plot twist. I didn’t see it coming and once I read it I had to re-read it because I couldn’t believe my eyes. And just like that, I felt like I was reading a whole different novel, which was not a bad thing at all!

There is hardly anything I didn’t like in this book. But on scrutinising it for a while I think I’d have to say the change of pace from the beginning to the end could be one. The start was action-packed and intense all the way to the end, where the conclusion was a bit of a loose-strings style. Something that didn’t really put me off, but did leave me wanting to know more.

So I guess it isn’t really a con since I really wanted more of this book. And I’ve heard that Peter Cawdron is working on a sequel so *squeal* I can’t wait to get my hands on that one. In fact, I loved this book so much that I personalized it a bit by painting a clip-art version of Mars on the cover.

Thank you so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for sending a copy of Retrograde my way!

And that was my review! Let me know if you’ve read this book. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? It’s an absolute delight. The best sci-fi book I’ve read this year without a doubt.

Lots of love and Mars dust,



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