Book #16 for 2015
I did a mix of audiobook and paperback, and I think it was a good thing that I started off with the audio version. There is an awful lot of math and engineering jargon in this book, and if I had tried processing the words on the page, I suspect I would have found myself quickly overwhelmed. Instead, the narrator breezed right through it all and forced me forward with whatever I could manage to grab onto mentally, and this was enough to get me comfortable with the narrative for reading a friend’s print copy later.
The story is often described as Cast Away meets Apollo 13, and that is pretty accurate. However, it doesn’t quite capture the often light-hearted tone of this book. The main character, Mark Watney, is thoroughly charming and entertaining and did a great job holding my interest. Which is good, because for huge chunks of the book, it’s all about him. I get that some people criticize the character for being unbelievably cheerful and optimistic, but Weir built in something of an explanation for this, and I am willing to suspend my disbelief here.
The NASA side of things was also good, showing the internal politics as well as the global scope of this one man’s survival. I know Weir had fun geeking out with all the science and tech stuff in the story, but it is also clear that he put a lot of heart into it. That said, I’m also glad that Weir didn’t muck it up with a romance angle for Watney. And I’m amazed that Hollywood didn’t go there. (view spoiler)
So, awesome read, lots of fun, and I’m told that the science is about as good as it gets for science fiction. Not perfect, but a total winner as far as I am concerned. I can think of very few people I wouldn’t recommend this to. I’d just advise the non-mathy (like myself) that yes, skimming is just fine and you’ll still understand the actual story.