Welcome to the third edition of our new feature. This mission of this feature is, twice a month, to review books that are more than a year old. And we review them TOGETHER! Most reviews have minor spoilers because it is hard to block them out in a back and forth dialogue about a book. So keep that in mind when reading, though we do try to not mention anything that would ruin a book for someone.
This week, Lyn picked Packing for Mars, a non-fiction, humor based book discussing the hurdles humans face on a mission to our neighboring red planet. Sadly, it was less than stellar for both parties.
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on April 4th, 2011
Buy on Amazon
“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) returns to explore the irresistibly strange universe of life without gravity in this New York Times bestseller. Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.
Lyn: I broke my sister’s heart when I told her I was not crazy about the book. I find the subject very interesting, but the writing was just very lacking. What turned you off of the book?
Kara: It was just dry to me. I already have issues with non-fiction books due to my shitty attention span. If the topic is not interesting to me, I am going to have issues. There were some moments that I enjoyed reading about at the time, but honestly, don’t even ask me to remember a specific detail because I have brain dumped it all already. I do think her other book might be more my speed because I love forensics.
Lyn: I was not wild about the writing style. It felt like the author thought she was a lot funnier than she really is. I also found the writing sort of choppy and mangled. Some of the parts were interesting, but then I hit another wall and I lost interest again. I do like the points the book brought up, such as astronauts losing bone density in space and how people in space use the toilet. That whole chapter is worth reading.
Kara: Yeah, I missed that chapter because I DNFed it at page 144. I remember a mention about using a tube but if there was more detail than that, I didn’t catch it. I hear you on the writing style. I did find it to be trying too hard in a lot of places. I expected this book to have a lot more humor than it had. I could only read about 20 pages at a time before I had to put it down. I’m also kind of in a reading slump, and most things I am attempting to read are not impressing me right now. This just made it worse. I had a feeling I was going to have trouble with this book from the very beginning unless it was absolutely amazing. It was not, unfortunately.
Lyn: Was it the subject that bored you? Why did you know you were going to struggle with it?
Kara: Yeah. I just have never been interested in space. I am more interested in the life sciences: Zoology, Biology, etc. I do think certain aspects of cosmology are interesting but it is not my favorite topic. Also, I cannot imagine why anyone would want to go up in a tiny little rocket and risk their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that they do or we would be completely clueless about the universe, but still. I have a tough time relating to the topic, I think.
Lyn: I never considered that you were not into space. It makes sense now that I think back on your lack of love for Star Trek and such. I can’t believe you don’t want to go live on Mars. No one is there, you know. Sounds awesome to me.
Kara: YES. I never made that connection either. I just suck at math too and I had trouble with Astronomy in college even though it was basically an easy course. It’s just never came easy to me. LOL but there are no trees and water on Mars. No beaches. No animals. Part of being alone and away from people for me is getting lost in the forest with the birds and the rain and the greenery around you. Mars does not have that. Put me in the jungle. 😀
Lyn: Weirdo. So, can you point out anything positive about this book? Do you remember any single fact?
Kara: Uhhhh…Sort of. I liked the experiment in the beginning that took place in Japan, was it? I liked learning about how being locked up with people for long periods of time can get to anyone and make them do some really bizarre, and even dangerous, things. I know that I would NEVER make it as an astronaut even if I wanted to because I cannot be around most people for more than a few hours before I start to get cranky. Can you imagine three months? Or on a space station? That’s the part I think I enjoyed most. The rest of it I’ve kind of already forgotten. How about you?
Lyn: I think it is crazy that one of the issues that comes up when we look at going to Mars is that people can’t stand one another. It is really weird. If we have the technology, it still doesn’t matter because people want to kill one another when faced with no personal space.
My favorite was the bathroom issue. I know you never reached it, but the author pointed out that astronauts have to poop into a hole that is 4 inches across. They have a potty that is rigged with a camera so that they can “potty train”. The book did make me realize what we take for granted on Earth. I also found it fascinating that gravity plays a big role in reproduction. I never really thought about it.
Kara: I must have missed the reproduction part too. Pooping in a hole that is 4 inches across? Yeah, I definitely can’t go into space. ROFL. Also, I think I would definitely end up killing someone. I also when they discussed how much sex is an issue after such a long period of time with the tension relieving and how they were considering sending a bunch of couples up there, but then decided they couldn’t because they would save each other and not put the mission first. These are things I never thought about. So you know, I did learn something. I begrudgingly admit that. 😉
Lyn: YAH! THE MORE YOU KNOW.
So, in the end, I would give the book 2 stars because there were parts I did like, but I think I’m going to skip out on the rest of the series by this author. Her writing really annoys the hell out of me.
Kara: Yeah, I know I DNFed but I feel like I read enough to rate it, and I am also awarding it 2 stars. I think at some point I might try to read her book on death, but I will definitely wait a while. Non-fiction books are iffy for me. Oh, and we are reading Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld next. Hopefully this will be a hit for both of us!
Lyn: I think we should see who averages better on picks in a year. So far, I am L-O-S-I-N-G.
I also started reading Leviathan today on the Kindle (on sale, 1.99, folks!!)
Kara: I haven’t started yet. Any initial thoughts? I can’t wait though. I’ve heard so many good things. And yes, I am totally with you on keeping track of our averages. I’ve only done one book so far but I am kicking your A-S-S, W-I-E-N-E-R. Hahaha.
Lyn: Whatever. You cheated. You had a reread.
Kara: But I didn’t know YOU would like it. 😀 My rating doesn’t count. Only yours does.
Lyn: I’m going to rate all of your picks 1 star. 😛
Kara: I noticed you dodged the question about how you were liking the book so far. 😉
Lyn: Here is my answer:
Kara: Hahahaha! I am dying. DYING. Love you, mama!
Lyn: Aw, I love you, too.