Hardback, in English. Author was male & probably American.

Published late '80s - Early '90s.

Plot (as best I can remember): Earth loses contact with first Mars expedition. Second expedition discovers members of first mission have become vampires (can't remember how).

Very gory & downbeat - death everywhere. In one scene aboard a space vehicle someone discovers a human eyeball, weightless & drifting in the air currents.

Up to this point the author was known only for children's books - publisher made a big deal about this being his first 'adult' novel. My library didn't pay attention & put the book in the kid's section. Angry mother came in and raised holy hell when she got a good look at what her son was reading!

  • Sort of reminds me of the anime/manga Terra Formars, except the previous expedition was wiped out by superhuman evolved cockroaches rather than vampires. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_Formars
    – nick012000
    Sep 25, 2020 at 4:09

2 Answers 2


This sounds very much like "The Season of Passage" by Christopher Pike, published in 1992.

Earth lost contact with a Russian mission to Mars, and a few years later (the story is set in 2004 - a rather optimistic view of how space exploration would develop) a second expedition is sent to find out what happened, and also to explore the planet. They discover that an alien infection from an underground lake has turned the expedition members into a kind of vampire-lizards, and of course, the rescue expedition gets infected in turn.

The novel is indeed extremely gory. Although I don't remember a human eyeball floating around in the Russian spacecraft, it is definitely possible. The story was something of a departure from Pike's normal output of more child-friendly YA novels, which fits with the poster's recollection. I attach a picture of the cover below, in case this jogs a memory.

Cover art

  • Thank you both! I am pretty sure Pike's book is it - although I am surprised nobody remembers the floating eyeball... I have just ordered a copy to be sure. Sep 22, 2020 at 22:41
  • Please let us know the result - whether the ID is correct or not. Sep 22, 2020 at 23:46
  • 2
    Extract from my ebook of this story, it mentions a floating eyeball but it's in her imagination: - " It could have been a lot worse. She knew that from experience. There could have been blood. There could have been dangling nerves, floating eyeballs. Yuck! Here there was just blond hair, pale skin, closed eyes, a frozen grin, a bony chest, gray shorts, skinny legs, and a dead Russian."
    – Danny Mc G
    Sep 23, 2020 at 13:07
  • 5
    Didn't he go on to be captain of the Enterprise? Sep 23, 2020 at 15:04

This could be The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike.

This was an adult orientated novel from a well known American (male) author, so it fits 2 of the points in your question.

The story follows the doctor of a follow up mission to Mars, and the encounter with the lizard vampires of that planet which seem to have caused the deaths of the first Russian mission sent there.

From the description of the plot on Amazon it seems like a good match....

Dr. Lauren Wagner was a celebrity. She was involved with the most exciting adventure mankind had ever undertaken: a manned expedition to Mars. The whole world admired and respected her.

But Lauren knew fear. Inside―voices entreating her to love them. Outside―the mystery of the missing group that had gone before her. The dead group.

But were they simply dead? Or something else?

  • It is the Pike book. (The floating eyeball is on page 157). Thanks to everyone for their help. Oct 6, 2020 at 13:45
  • That's great! Could you accept one of the answers, to show that the question has been solved. Oct 14, 2020 at 23:51

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