Kurzweil repeatedly flogs the same minor points over and over about how powerful PCs will be in just a few years. I get that they will be 10 to the umpteenth times as powerful as the human brain. I don't need to hear it for what seems like to be every other paragraph in the book.
It was nice to see some hard numbers on the subject (though it would have been better to then moved on from those numbers, rather than constantly revisiting them).
Frankly, anyone could have done a better job than Mr. Wilson. He has a weird intonation to his voice as he reads the book, which is reminiscent of William Shatner at his worst, played at a very slow speed. I found that playing it at twice normal speed helped things immensely.
Each chapter begins with a future version of Kurzweil discussing with other supposed future individuals what life was like after the singularity occurs (in 2045). This reads more like a Mary Sue piece than anything else and does more harm than good to the work.
Spoiler alert! The future Kurzweil projects for humanity is that sometime between 2045 and 2100 we all turn into a cross between the Borg, a T1000 Terminator (minus the desire to kill all humans), and V'Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Kurzweil sees this as a positive, even though such a scenario involves government mandated brain scans (to make sure we're not developing WMDs, and Kurzweil assures us that the government will never ever abuse this power in the way Nixon did). Frankly, while I like the idea of near immortality, and many of the technological advances which seem likely, I think that if what Kurzweil projects comes to pass, the future will be incredibly bleak.
I grew up reading Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and other "hard" SF writers. This reads very much like early Heinlein, only with more obscenities. It will keep you up at night, because you'll be desperate to hear how Watney solves (by himself) this or that problem which arises. If you know someone at NASA, or one of the private spaceflight companies, make them read this book! The problems which arise and that Watney has to deal with could happen on any manned mission, and his solutions to them are brilliant.
This book also proves that you can have an exciting story, while having it be scientifically accurate. When Watney starts to figure out how much food he has on hand, how long he's likely to be on Mars, and what he's going to have to do to keep from starving to death before help can arrive, it only enhances the tension. It lets you know, in just a paragraph, how dire Watney's situation is, and how hard the struggle to survive will be, and that's if nothing goes wrong.
Years ago a friend of mine gave me a copy of Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" series, because he knew I liked hard SF. This book isn't merely better than the "Red Mars" series, it takes that series into a dark alley, forces it to commit an unnatural act with sewer rats, then brutally bashes its brains in with a dumpster.
The narrator is absolutely perfect for this book, and the tone, pitch, and inflection he uses while he reads it are ideal.
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