Thursday, 12 October 2017

Book review: the Martian

The Martian (Goodreads) was recommended by D, and I enjoyed it. It is sci-fi but "hard"; the plot is closely based around near-term plans for how early exploration off Mars might happen. the genre is "engineering"; essentially the lone protagonist faces a series of challenges and overcomes them not by heroism or exceptional intelligence but by being resourceful, thinking things through and ingenuity.

[This review written in early 2018 after I'd read the inferior Artemis as well, but backdated to mid-October which is about when I read TM.]

Plot (but you can get this from the wiki page or elsewhere): a dust storm means the explorers need to leave early but by accident one bloke is left behind, presumed dead. Can a rescue rocket get to him in time, and will it come to him or will he need to trog across half of Mars to get to it?

Most of all of this is well done and convincing. Details are plausible. So I'll point up a few that aren't. The sudden-evacuation-in-storm isn't quite; I can't think they would be so poorly prepared. The politics back on Earth is naive. The not-tell-the-departed-crew bit isn't believeable. Turning over the rover towards the end felt a bit too much like let's-throw-another-obstacle-at-him. But that contrasts with the rest, where the obstacles arise naturally and do not feel contrived, and the story mostly flows well.

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