When John Carmack recommends a work of fiction that engineers should enjoy, well, I’m interested! This book by Andy Wier definitely was worth the read. The basic plot is a manned mission to Mars runs into trouble and one of the astronauts gets stranded on the red planet. This would seem to be a pretty serious death sentence but the clever plot uses really excellent engineering kung-fu to keep the protagonist alive.

This book had -

  • Interesting and colorful characters. Some people would rightly criticise by saying that we don’t learn much about the main character’s feelings and emotions but rather only his technical problem solving and engineering skills. Yup. For me that was refreshing! No extraneous love affairs here (e.g. Kili and Tauriel).

  • Very accurate and plausible (as far as I could tell) engineering and science. No magic technology that I could detect. It was quite educational which I, someone who enjoys reading text books, appreciated.

  • A compelling tale - the prototype is Robinson Crusoe, one of my favorite books. Also reminiscent of Shackleton’s history.

  • Erudite and intelliegent author who writes well - good pacing, sensible section/chapter sizes, infrequent grammar errors, etc.

  • A satisfying story arc, including a proper ending.

If you’re a scientist or engineer and/or interested in manned space exploration, then this book is well worth a look. If you don’t find clever engineering more interesting than simply shooting people, this may not be ideal for you.