Monday, February 10, 2014

The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir
Crown Publishing: 2/11/2014
Hardcover, 384 pages

ISBN-13: 9780804139021

Apollo 13 meets Castaway in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller-set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him-and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive-and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills-and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit-he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Thoughts:

The Martian by Andy Weir is a genuinely entertaining, humorous, engrossing hard science fiction thriller that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. It is very highly recommended.

When a dust storm causes the rest of his crew members to abandon their mission on Mars, Mark Watney is hurt by a flying antennae form the satellite system and presumed dead by his crew mates. By a set of freak circumstances he survives the injury and breach to his suit and now must figure out a way to survive on Mars until the next mission arrives. Mark has a limited amount of supplies and no communication with the outside world. What he does have is an amazing gift of ingenuity for finding solutions to impossible problem.

Mark came on the mission as a trained botanist and mechanical engineer. What you really need to know is what I thought while reading The Martian: This is MacGyver on Mars, or Robinson Crusoe on Mars, or a real survivalist on Mars. The story of his plans and how he figures out what to do next is written/recorded as journal entries and is fascinating and totally engrossing.
I can't claim to understand all the science behind his fixes and figures, but I was pulling for Mark to continue to find solutions to all the problems that cropped up.

Most importantly to the story is the simple fact that Mark is a great hero. He approaches all the problems facing him with a sense of humor. While you are pondering the complicated steps he must undertake to survive, you will also be laughing and chuckling at his approach to life. For example: "Remember those old math questions you had in algebra class? Where water is entering a container at a certain rate and leaving at a different rate and you need to figure out when it’ll be empty? Well, that concept is critical to the 'Mark Watney doesn’t die' project I’m working on. I need to create calories." (Location 323) Or his comments over the 70's sitcoms one of his crewmates brought along for entertainment that he is watching: "Anyway, much more important: I simply can’t abide the replacement of Chrissy with Cindy. Three’s Company may never be the same after this fiasco. Time will tell."  Location 481.

Eventually NASA figures out that Mark is still alive and living on Mars. There is a nice contrast between the tension filled NASA scenes and what should be even more tense scenes with Mark on Mars, but Mark is such a clever and witty Mr. Fix-it that you just know he will overcome all  the problems thrown at him until the bitter end. This is a great hard science fiction novel!

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Crown Publishing via Edelweiss for review purposes.

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