A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga
I read it as a(n): hardback
Length: 294 pp
Her Grace’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This story is about a Mars rover called Resilience, which is based on real Mars rovers. He wakes up in a lab one day and learns that he is being built to go explore Mars, which is exciting to him because he was programmed a little too well and he’s developed human emotions. He develops attachments to his primary programmers, Raina and Xander, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, though they don’t know it since he can’t actually speak to them. Res is utterly determined not to disappoint them in any way and to do everything he can to live up to his name.
I can’t remember where I first even heard about this book but as soon as I did, I put in a request for it from my library. I knew I had to read it. I went into it expecting something similar to Wall-E or Short Circuit. I didn’t know that I would be absolutely enthralled and shattered by a fictional Mars rover. This book made me cry more than once.
Throughout, Res discovers new emotions and works through how they apply to his current situation. His friend and secondary rover, Journey, is deeply disturbed by his emotions, as is Guardian, the sentinel satellite (I guess?) in orbit around Mars. But Res persists in his exploration both of Mars and of his own inner world. I loved his thoughts about meaning in life, about death, about the importance of names. I loved his determination to live up to his own name.
The majority of the story is from Res’s POV but interspersed throughout we also get to see journal entries from Sophie, Raina’s daughter. Sophie is about 8 years old at the beginning of the book and her chapters contribute valuable insight into the ways the rover mission is seen by the population in general as well as how it impacts her own family life. She is a little girl who misses her mom because she’s so often at work instead of, say, at Sophie’s ball games. In the same way it was fun to see Res evolve as a being, it was nice to see Sophie grow and change over the years as well.
I loved this book so much that, if I get any gift cards for Amazon at Yule, I will be breaking my self-imposed moratorium on book buying and will get a copy of my own. This is a book I would read over, especially if I find I need a dopamine boost.
- “Where did you learn the term beeps and boops?”
Journey is quiet for a moment. It is not like her to be quiet. She is a fast processor. Her answers normally come at rapid speed.
“Journey?” I say.
“I created it.”
“You created it?”
“It is my phrase.”
“Oh,” I say.
“Do you think that is unscientific?”
“No,” I say without pause. “I think it is extraordinary” (24).
- I want so badly to say, I’m going to try to be worth it (33).
- There is clapping. Lots of it. Clapping is something I have observed that hazmats like to do. It is one of their ways to celebrate. They seem fascinated and delighted that their hands can make so much noise (79).
- Avoid dust and see stars (124).
- I experience the human emotion of hope. It is a sticky and strange feeling. It is a beautiful one (180).
- I hear Xander’s words in my head. Telling me the meaning of my name. Resilience.
I must earn my name.
I must earn it over and over again (195).
- It means something to have a name. To matter enough for someone to give you one (250).