Book Review: Distortion



Phobos #2

Written by Victor Dixen

Translated by Daniel Hahn

576 pages

Published by Hot Key Books

Publication date: 18th October 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

‘This thrilling space odyssey will keep you turning pages late into the night.’
C. J. Daugherty, author of NIGHT SCHOOL

‘Phobos gave me the perfect escape I’ve been ravenous for. Each page took me further into the stars on a daring and romantic journey to Mars. This book is my new obsession!’

‘Explosive and cinematic, this book has it all — high-stakes secrets, slippery lies, and budding romance, all set against the most gorgeous backdrop of stars. It’s a dating game reality show like none other in the galaxy!’


We are twelve, gathered all together for the first time in the Visiting Room, the glass bubble that has seen us parading in, two by two, over these past five months: us, the participants in the Genesis programme, the greatest TV game show in all history – and the cruellest lie of all time.

We are twelve people thirsty for glory, who were persuaded that by setting off for Mars we would become immortal.

We are twelve people hungry for love, convinced that everything would have  a fairy-tale ending – they were married, had lots of children and lived happily ever after. Isn’t that what we’re always  reading at the end of a good story?

First impressions: I knew hat I had to read this after reading and loving the first book, Ascension. I went in to reading that wondering if I would like it and ended up really loving it. When the second book arrived I was immediately impressed by the heft of it, especially for the second book in a series – it’s nearly 600 pages long! I also love the covers and how they complement each other.

This story picks up exactly where the first book ends, with the twelve pioneers having to make a very important decision about the mission that could affect their chances of survival, alongside making their final ‘heart rankings’ and selecting who they will wed to start the Mars Colony.

It is difficult to review the second book in a series without giving away any spoilers, so I recommend that you read Ascension first before reading on!

This book moved slightly more slowly than the first book – despite the stakes and the tension being ratcheted up, the events in the book take place over only just a few weeks and days. For this reason, I felt a bit frustrated at times that the pioneers didn’t seem to actually be doing much to solve the problem of the seventh habitat, and some even seem to have forgotten that there is an expiry date to their stay on the red planet.

I was less invested in the development of the relationships than I had expected, mostly because I was becoming more and more interested in the science side of things, especially in hearing about their day-to-day life on Mars and the mysteries of the seventh habitat. I am also curious to see what will happen with the Harmony and Andrew storyline as it seems like the story was being set up for their actions on Earth to have an impact on Mars. The reveal of some characters’ secrets made me curious about those that other pioneers are still concealing…

This book was a great addition to the series, successfully building on the successes of the first book and adding extra layers of complexity that, along with the cliff-hanger ending, are bound to bring readers back for the next instalment!

‘They’ve sent us to our deaths,’ I say for the third time, feeling like I’ve got razor blades scraping my throat.

I’ve had weeks to nurture my suspicions, to believe the unbelievable, to name the unnameable. But them? They suspected nothing, and here I am hurling everything in their faces, all eleven of them, like a slap. They thought they were the lucky ones chosen for the greatest adventure anybody has ever experienced, and they discover they’re just victims, destined to die wretchedly.

What I liked: I became attached to the characters in the first book, so was looking forward to getting to know them better in this book. Overall, the number of characters meant that some didn’t get as much development as I had hoped, but overall, the story became much more serious with higher stakes so I am excited to se what will happen next. I have the impression of a house of cards getting higher and higher before everything comes crashing down in the next book!

Even better if: Some of the conversations didn’t sound natural, but scripted. I can imagine that being watched by millions of viewers would make you choose your words carefully, but some of the professions of eternal love and devotion felt a bit overblown. I also feel like Serena McBee gets away with too much and has too much control – wouldn’t anyone be suspicious at all? Orion Seamus seems like one to watch…

One of the ‘twists’ near the end left me a bit confused – can’t wait to see how that will be resolved in Book Three!

How you could use it in your classroom: Anyone who enjoyed the first book will love this one too, particularly as the stakes are even higher than in the first one. I wouldn’t recommend reading this in isolation as there is a lot going on. It might be interesting to have readers imagine what they would choose, if offered the choices of the pioneers (both about Mars and about their partners). I would also like to hear some more about the science, so would be interesting for pupils to research how plants and humans may be changed by the different living conditions on another planet.

(Thank you to Readers First and Hot Key Books for my review copy!)

Don’t miss my review of the first book, Ascension!ascension cover

While you’re here, why not check out my reviews of Spinning Silver, The Pretender, Mirage or Sanctuary?

Find me on Twitter , Goodreads or Instagram

Thanks for reading!

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Your backdrops to your photos suit the books so perfectly! Beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Just a shame that the light has been so poor recently – want to reshoot on a slightly brighter day!

      Liked by 1 person

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