Tech twitter comments motivated me to read this book, by the author of the Martian.
- I kept hearing Matt Damon's voice in my head the whole time
- "Sciencing the shit out of problems" seems to be Weir's calling card now, and its kinda cool. He has his own genre like M Night Shymalan.
- Lone astronaut stuck, going to die, searching through the belongings of his crewmates etc. etc. lots of the same setup
- Cryogenic sleep, amnesia when waking up, discovering surroundings etc echoing Dennis E. Taylor's Bobiverse
Overall I thought it was a well-executed book. Meaning it gives the audience what they want, without trying hard to be original. It's hard to pull off near future sci-fi, and in light of the pandemic, the Earth mission prep seems laughable. Humanity pulling together to execute a plan to prevent a disaster 4 decades away? But anyway, there are enough other books that bemoan Earth politics so why bother. Escapism it is!
It's perhaps the first sci-fi to depict humanity meeting a near peer alien civ. The getting to know each other is classic two cultures meeting trope, with early language learning to eventual joking, and finally saving each other's lives.
Grace has no friends Earthside, and is forced to go on the trip. This is a departure from the charismatic leader trope, and shows autists are finally pop culture ascendant. He is a reluctant hero... but a little outside the cliche because reluctant heroes normally become heroes by their actions when no one else can save the day, but he tries to dodge when only he can save the day.
The science in the book I'm not qualified to comment on. I mean its fiction, so who cares whether its accurate? I really do wonder how much science and math can be safely crammed into a book... I also wonder why these books don't include some diagrams.. I mean it's super hard to visualize apogee or trajectory. What's the point of having a chunk of text about how the angle of approach etc? Is it just linguistic Mise-en-scène for sci-fi? If its meant to be understood maybe a diagram might help.