When I was looking for what to spend some of my first Audible credits on, The Martian by Andy Weir stood out. This still ranks at the top of roughly 15 audiobooks I’ve listened to for two reasons. First, the story and writing was engaging. This was “hardest” sci-fi I’ve read so far. There is a lot of math, chemistry, physics, and botany (yes botany). I’m sure that many people would be put off by such dry and detailed descriptions, but that leads me to my second point. The performance of the narrator, R.C. Bray, was superb. He made the “hard science” interesting and entertaining. His voice strikes me as a perfect fit for the main character, Mark Watney. Do yourself a favor and listen to the 5 minute sample on Audible and judge for yourself. While the book focuses on his Watney’s mission log, R.C. Bray does voices for other characters in NASA back on Earth. The voices are OK, nothing but nothing spectacular. I can’t say there is anything wrong, but there are other narrators with a stronger skill for differing character voices.
I recently started using Overdrive, a digital library site that my local library participates in. I stumbled across Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction. A Princess of Mars was just the first of dozens of stories, novellas, and novels strung together with commentary on Science Fiction as a genre. I thought it would be interesting to branch out to some older stuff that I normally have not had a chance to get to.
A Princess of Mars was originally published in 1912 in All-Story Magazine under the title “Under the Moons of Mars” by Normal Bean. The story begins with the narrator explaining that he is relaying a manuscript given to him in book form. He goes over a brief biography of the main character, John Carter, known as Captain Jack Carter of Virginia — an American Civil War veteran. John finished the manuscript the shortly before his death in 1886. The manuscript begins normal enough, talking about how John and one of his friends were prospecting for gold out West. They found a good spot, and the friend was going to head back to get proper papers for staking the claim. John happens to notice three dots in the distance in the direction his friend departed, and after investigating is convinced that Apache Indians are pursuing his friend. Not much of a spoiler, but here it goes — he tries to save his friend and fails, then finds himself chased into a cave. This is where the story takes a turn toward science fiction. After a brief series of events that I won’t get into, John finds himself in some type of out of body experience then wakes up on Mars.