The first two thirds of this book is a four-star novel. Yes it was kind of covering the same ground as Red Mars - man's biggest obstacle in conquering other planets is men being men - but I love all that science-y stuff, so I was on board. But the last third of the book was just awful. Sadly, I think this part of the book is the story KSR actually wanted to tell.
At first i thought it was going to be the 'anti-Martian' - turns out you can't 'science the s#it' out of every problem, and now everyone is going to die! This would have been a brave move, and made for a dark book. But no, everyone is saved by the miraculous last-minute invention of suspended animation... This gives us a LONG overly sentimental scene of them going to hyper-sleep. They each gaze into the other's eyes as the insert the tubes and needles for pages and pages. Which is totally undermined when later on the last remaining traveller decides to go to sleep, and the ships automated systems handle the whole process in a couple of sentences.
When they return to the solar system, they are going too fast, and are all going to die again. But wait, they've arrived exactly the moment when all nine planets are in exactly the right page for the ship to do one hundred gravitational breaking manoeuvres and save the day. Phew! These braking manoeuvres go on forever, by the way.
Our heroes return to earth, and the spaceship, which has been our viewpoint character for a lot of the book, is destroyed off-screen in less than a sentence. But I think that was so that KSR still had room left for pages and pages and pages of what it is like to play on a beach... Eh? I thought I was reading science fiction? I know what it is like to play on a beach. Everyone knows what it is like to play on a beach! Get back to telling us what it is like to journey to other worlds. Reply