I read this book and a few weeks later I watched the movie, so I will be commenting on both because I found that the movie influenced how I felt about the book. I also listened to part of the audiobook and will comment briefly on that.
Reviews on this book consistently talk about how it is very technical and most didn’t like that aspect of it. Being a scientist I thought I wouldn’t mind this as much as non-scientists would. However, I did find it very technical which slowed down reading. I found the technical parts interesting as it made it vary clear the types of problems Mark had to face and how smart he was and how he had to think things through if he was going to survive, but there was one part where NASA spent an age describing what they wouldn’t do because it wouldn’t work before going into what they would do. This does not seem like a thing NASA would do because they have a limited time to talk to Mark and they need to get to the point quickly. Also my science brain wanted to look over all the calculations to see if they were right as I was reading them.
Talking about how things would go talking to NASA, I found a lot of the questions asked (on both sides) were not very intelligent and would not have been asked as they did not add to the what you need to know right now to fix the situation. That being said, I do like that there was a ‘daily Mark update’ news show in the book and that NASA was a part of it. It is easy to imagine that this sort of thing would happen if it was real life.
I loved the characters, but did find Mark a bit too ‘happens to know the exact right thing every time he gets into a bind’. He always seemed to know the exact right stats and information to figure out any problem. Astronauts do need to be smart and train for this sort of thing, but it seemed a stretch with the sheer amount of knowledge he just knew without looking it up. I did appreciate that Mark was allowed to be emotional about his situation. He was allowed to cry when he got into contact with earth again. At the time of reading the book I felt he was a little to unprofessional to be an astronaut, but reading ‘Failure is not an Option’ after I read this book, I am relenting on this a little. The rest of the cast was surprisingly large and diverse, which I liked. You also got to see some of the side characters develop over time. Additionally, the way the characters react to the situation is very realistic.
Just thinking about the amount of money that was spent to get him back is staggering, yet at the same time, it’s not too hard to image that money being spent. Perhaps not being forked out by the government, but being raised by private citizens? I can imagine that.
This book was super funny and had great ‘comedic timing’. The book would switch between PoV when a polar opposite then what was expected thing was happening. The writing was not the most sophisticated, but I got over that quickly and learned to love it. The book did drag in the middle and follow a trend of ‘something went wrong, Mark fixed it, something went wrong, Mark fixed it’ a bit too much for my taste, but again, realistic. I do think there were a few inconsistencies in the book, but nothing that really dragged the text down. Finally, for the first third of the book everyone pinched their chin constantly, which was a great irritation to me.
I didn’t listen to much of the audiobook, but the main two things I have to comment on, was that the audiobook I listened to (I’m not sure if there is a different English version) did not match the text of the book. That is the main reason I didn’t stick with the audiobook. Finally, I did like the narrator of the audiobook, even if I didn’t listen to much of the book.
Weirdly, while I found the book too technical, the movie was not technical at all and that irritated me. I felt the lack of the constant calculations and considerations in the movie didn’t show how dire the situation was and how much needed to be considered and how smart Mark was. Also, while for the most part the movie followed the book, towards the end when they needed to cut things out for time they cut some of my favourite parts! I wanted to see Mark deal with the sand storm among other things. However, the final scene they added to the movie was lovely.
I loved the book and I liked the movie. The only thing I would have changed is to see how Mark’s parents dealt with certain critical situations.