Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from G.P. Putnam’s Sons via NetGalley & Edelweiss. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
Review: Having read and loved both Station Eleven and The Martian, the claim in the blurb that it was a combination of these two was beyond compelling. But, no offense to whoever wrote that blurb, that claim is so far off the mark that it would be easy to get frustrated part way in and dismiss this book entirely. That would be a mistake.
The whole premise of the book is that this is a training exercise meant to simulate a mission to Mars. The astronauts who are participating are aware that it is a simulation. While they truly experience the psychological strains of people who have been isolated from their families, friends, the day to day minutiae of their civilian lives, they never fully lose sight of the fact that it’s all a fiction. They are not in Mars. Their lives aren’t really in danger. So we never get the drama that comes along with people struggling to survive, fighting for their lives, wondering if a misstep will cost them everything. So, no. Not like The Martian. Not like Station Eleven. But it stands on its own two feet, at least for the reader who likes to take journeys inside the human heart and mind, to experience the deep introspection of characters, to examine all the weird and delicate and irrational feelings that make us human.
No. This book is not a space adventure. Yes, there is a lot of jargon and talking about the intricacies of engaging in the monumental endeavor that is sending humans to Mars, but this isn’t a thrilling sci fi adventure. It’s a deliberate and methodical examination of what it means to be human, to be a father, a mother, a spouse, a child. To make sacrifices for your dreams, to sacrifice yourself for others. It’s about the masks we construct to make our way through life with greater ease, and how sometimes we get so used to those masks that we forget what lives underneath. This isn’t a book that will make you laugh, or cry, or scream, or sit on the edge of your seat fraught with worry or anticipation. It’s a book that makes you think.
So long as you can let go of the poorly made comparison to The Martian and Station Eleven, I think you’ll really enjoy this book for what it is.