One hundred and fifty nine days into space, twenty three weeks into their one-way journey to Mars, the twelve young men and women of the Cupido have come to a crisis which is witnessed by their millions of followers across the globe, but Serena McBee, mastermind of the project, sees events differently for she knows the truth behind the story which has been sold to the masses.
The second novel of Victor Dixen’s Phobos trilogy, Distortion is the name of the game as Serena McBee’s ambition is threatened by the discovery of her twelve charges that their new home is not the safe haven that was sold to them or the audience, that the test animals sent in advance all died in unexplained and uninvestigated circumstances.
Should they reveal the incriminating information on air, her reputation will be destroyed; conversely, should they threaten her, she has the power to blank their signal and destroy their habitat remotely then make up any story she wishes, providing she can guarantee the cooperation or silence of those within the Genesis Program who know the secrets behind the mission.
Originally published in France in 2015 and picking up exactly where Ascension concluded, Distortion is another five hundred pages of tiresome teenagers in space; with no attempt to explain the situation or the setting, it is expected that the reader is already familiar with that first volume, as before anything can be expanded upon the boys are fighting among themselves while behind their glass partition the girls helplessly cry out for them to stop.
The sinister subterfuge of Serena McBee revealed, Medical Officer Léonor must persuade her eleven shipmates of the veracity of the Noah Report, but exposed to new scrutiny by experts in different fields they see what may be a loophole in the data, the possibility that it was not an inherent design flaw but an external factor which caused the deaths, knowledge which could potentially help them prepare a defence.
Everything explained breathlessly, the contrived crises amplified by the hormonal crew, pendulums who swing between cooing at the perfection of their chosen partners then squabbling amongst themselves, the few genuine attempts at an intelligent science fiction narrative – the discussion of the approach to Mars and the descent, theorising about the environmental failure – are drowned out by soap opera theatrics.
Money her only motivating factor, McBee is a tiresome pantomime villain, Cruella De Vil for the relativity television generation, a game show host smile for the adoring audience while off-camera she chews scenery and seduces and stabs in the back; obliged to dress as Santa Claus for the Christmas broadcast her sole remaining ally protests at the indignity then on the same page is reduced to protestations that he too is a good boy in return for a glimpse of her black fishnet stockings.
What could be a satire on the distortion of the media and how easily the masses can be led ploughs ahead instead without the slightest hint of self-awareness as wedding dresses are worn (“It’s all so emotional! I just can’t believe the best day of my life has arrived!”) and the desperately in love couples settle down for their incomprehensibly chaste Martian lives until Collision is published next March.