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Shorts: The Phobos Experience

The Phobos Experience is a quick, adventurous jaunt into space, pairing a bit of space exploration with a few high-stakes situations and well-timed geology puns. Kowal is a master at writing realistic space expeditions and I continuously find myself amazed at her abilities as a storyteller.


Mary Robinette Kowal
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2018



A small team of astronauts has been tasked with a secret mission to Phobos in order to explore a possible network of caves. Their seemingly innocent expedition suddenly becomes dangerous when they come face-to-face with unexpected inhabitants. The effortless writing of space travel and landing, including the math necessary to make such a landing, makes the story come to life. I was surprised at the humor as well, mainly in the form of ridiculous geology puns made by the lead geologist. A lot was packed into this short story, and it was done with care.


The story focuses primarily on a female astronaut and two of her colleagues, each unique in their own way. She has a heavy background in math, providing the calculations that I’ve come to love thanks to Kowal’s Lady Astronaut installments. Darlene is confident in her abilities and, even though she’s suffering from some unfortunate vertigo, she stills manages to save the day and outsmart the pirates trying to kill her crew. The geologist is also a fun addition, providing ongoing humor, even during tense situations.


We see a colony on Mars, established some time ago, and an expedition to Phobos, one of Mars’ moons. The details of the Mars colony aren’t delved into much, but Phobos provides an interesting landscape as it’s covered in feet of dust that create issues with landing, walking and running – all important things when you’re exploring and trying to outrun pirates.


Space, Exploration, Mars, Astronauts, Pirates, Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Spaceship

Interested in more stories like The Phobos Experience? Check out more reviews in our The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction section.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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