Top critical review
Very curious indeed...
on December 8, 2016
Maybe it's a bit too glib, or perhaps I was just disappointed at how little this resembled the heroic images that I still carry from Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. At least at first. Everything related to space exploration nowadays seems very cumbersome and overwrought: top-heavy with procedure, safety rules (ironically), highly focused on the acutely mundane (unfortunately with good reason), heavily bureaucratic, and largely uninspiring.
Then we got into motion sickness, pooping in space, and drinking one's own urine. And the book turned quirky and entertaining enough to hold my interest. Roach has a bit of a specialty: the gleeful gross-out. I suppose it is interesting to wonder how a person might unmessily defecate in space or deal with body odours when encapsulated with like-stinking colleagues, and difficult to imagine it a lifelong professional pursuit for a Lab Coat. The logistics required to take a dump in space during an Apollo mission without coating one's colleagues in your excrement makes extended fasting seem like a great idea. So does the prospect of weeks spent eating dried birdseed and glue without barfing.
It was not quite the riveting read that I expected. Informative and sometimes amusing, but sometimes a bit scattered and not particularly smoothly written. I might have ranked this higher, except for the slightly annoying wink-wink, let's-go-off-on-a-clever-tangent writing, and the fact that I had already read Stiff first. Somehow the author's previous book about the general grossness of cadavers was a bit more inspiring, perhaps because we all end up there despite our best efforts, while the ins-and-outs (mostly outs) of bodily functions seem strangely distanced while in space. However, It seemed like the author hugely enjoyed her research for this book; her bouncy enthusiasm kept it readable. Mars draws strongly on anecdotes and personal interviews instead of direct citation - it's definitely a light read, an informal, chatty book aimed firmly at the layman.