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Review & Giveaway: Scorched Earth by Kathleen McFall & Clark Hays

by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Pages: 318
Date of Publication: February 14th, 2021
Categories: Science Fiction / Hard Boiled Detective

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The year is 2188 and the Earth—long-ago abandoned for Mars by the plutocrats—is scorched by poverty, disease, and environmental collapse. What these wealthy elite don’t know is that on his last trip upuniverse, Detective Crucial Larsen stumbled onto a secret that could destroy them. But he doesn’t intend to use it. Fighting back against the ruling Five Families of Mars is a fool’s game destined for failure—or worse, he thinks. Plus, he never wants to set foot on that damn planet again. Then Melinda, his long-lost love and a staff scientist on Mars, begs for his help clearing her fiancée of a murder charge. Crucial jumps on the next q-rocket, hoping maybe this time he can patch things up with Mel. His investigation ultimately leads back to the radiation-blasted sunbelt, where cannibal lizard-people—a climate change mitigation genetic experiment gone terribly wrong—hold the key to a different future, if only Crucial can stay alive long enough to unlock it.


Praise for Scorched Earth:

“Others have attempted to blend the genres of an investigative detective piece with sci-fi, but few achieve such a seamless integration as do McFall and Hays … a compelling saga, edgy and different, thoroughly absorbing.” 

Midwest Book Review


Purchase: Amazon




Scorched Earth by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays is the fourth book I have read by this talented couple, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with their ability to build such a bleak and interesting future. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but I feel like most authors figure out their lane and stay in it. The duo’s Bonnie and Clyde series was so well written that for a second, my brain wouldn’t accept that they co-authored this amazing science fiction novel with the totally rad cover. (Can I get the cover art on a T-shirt, please?) So what is their lane? Anything action packed with brilliant characters and punchy dialogue, apparently.

So, normally I would complain about a book that didn’t do the whole exposition thing thoroughly for the previous books in the series. But I liked how this one gives you just enough information to power through and understand what is going on. And if the intention was to make the reader want to go back and read Book One, mission accomplished. Thankfully, there were only two or three instances where I was kicking myself for not reading the previous book, but they were enough for me to add Gates of Mars to my TBR list. And best believe that it will get read before Book Three comes out.

There is a delicate balance to writing good science fiction. The future has to be different enough from the present to make a plausible and realistic story, but at the same time not be completely off-the-wall to the point that the reader scoffs at the unlikelihood of any of it coming true one day. The idea that humans have migrated to Mars is not a new one – what with all of our Mars missions and other fiction works where science has finally figured out how to sustain life on the Red Planet. What I found particularly compelling in this new world is the monopoly on leading a comfortable life on Mars and the lengths that people will go to fight against or maintain that power.

And it is these people, AI included, that really make this book a fantastic read. Not only do McFall and Hays write a seamless story, a feat that many co-authors are unable to accomplish, but they create these colorful characters with wonderful voices and quirks. Even the characters that you probably won’t care much for, you kind of do, because as annoying as they are, you are now invested in what happens to them.

This is definitely a series that I hope Netflix or some other streaming service will pick up and make into a movie or TV show. Do yourself a favor; make sure you read Gates of Mars if you haven’t already. I bet that there are some truly hilarious and exciting moments in that book, as there will be in Book Three, no doubt.

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.  Scorched Earth is their ninth co-authored book.

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