This book strikes me as what would result if Monty Python had directed “The Martian”; picture Eric Idle playing Mark Watney. If you’re not a fan of that particular brand of British humor, then this story’s genius will undoubtedly escape you. I laughed myself silly several times at the absolutely ludicrous characters, situations, and scenes. You wouldn’t expect that such a silly, outrageous premise would be brilliant, but it is. As someone who worked for NASA for over twenty years, I think it takes considerable imagination to come up with something so far from reality. Nonetheless, the characters are amazingly well-developed, not only the humans, but the plethora of robots as well.
The plot is more complex than you’d expect and includes not only the totally bungled Mars mission, but a murder mystery as well as a tie back to the Roswell UFO crash. The basic story is that the Brits have put together a mission to Mars, for which a robotic crew was tasked with building and preparing the base. This does not happen on schedule, which means that the humans arrive to a facility that is not only unfinished, but built incorrectly, i.e., too small because they used “old meters” (yards) instead of “new meters.”
The crew is not what you’d expect, but a motley bunch that ranges from librarians to scientists and their child prodigy-type offspring plus various others unlikely to be part of such a mission. The commander, Flint Dugdale, who acquired that position when the original one was murdered en route, won his place on the ship originally from a reality show, then strong-armed his way into the top seat. He’s rude, crude, and obnoxious, typically swilling beer and belching, thus not endearing in any way, but does lend a certain level of humor with some of his exploits, especially when they finally get settled at the base. I won’t say any more than that because it would constitute a spoiler, as would mentioning any of the funniest scenes that had me laughing so hard I was in tears.
Yes, I laughed a lot, hard, at how outrageously crazy the entire situation was. There is clearly no semblance of reality here, especially on the science side, which the reader needs to recognize. It’s a spoof and a satire, which I felt was well-done. It certainly expanded my knowledge of British slang, including boffins, twonk, pillock, kerfuffle, conkers, and numerous others, which for me added to the flavor of the story and kept me aware that this was a bunch of Brits. Fortunately, I read it on my Kindle, which has a built-in dictionary to help with such matters. As an author myself, I enjoy learning new words and have been known to read the dictionary. So I’m probably not your normal reader.
Clearly this book is not for everyone. For me it was just what I was looking for, something to make me laugh out loud while I was recovering from pneumonia. As a physicist and former rocket scientist, I have a weird, nerd-like sense of humor that resonated with this story. Consider that our college ritual every semester’s end back in the 80s was to have a pizza party and watch “Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.” To me “The Big Bang Theory” is a reality show. If you can relate to that, you’d probably find this book amusing. I certainly did. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.