Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

I really wish I had read this book a month ago. If so, many of my techie friends would be getting it for Christmas. The best blurb description is "Apollo 13 times ten." In Apollo 13, astronauts had to improvise a way back to earth from orbit. Here, one astronaut is left behind on Mars and has to survive a much longer time in much more dire straits. The cleverness and detail is amazing, the pace is lightning-fast (with a few exceptions that seem to disappear as the book moves on), and there's even a narrative shape with a high-stakes, explosive ending that had me talking to myself as I read it.

The only shortcoming is that I don't think the psychological stress of the situation is carried out fully, and so many difficulties are overcome it starts to numb the reader (and the constant wisecracks by the stranded astronaut start to wear just a little thin). You recapitulate the psychological stress in yourself, I suppose. But you don't ride a rollercoaster for psychology. This book is a better roller-coaster than Michael Crichton, without Crichton's quasi-pseudo-science. Anyone with an interest in engineering, space, how things work, chemistry, science, etc. would be advised to set aside some free time because you'll be compelled to finish.

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