Thursday, April 16, 2015

#17 [2015/CBR7] "The Martian" by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now h'es sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he's alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Doesn't that sound fascinating? I'm not a huge science-fiction reader, but that premise sucked me in like you wouldn't believe. I guess I like survival stories. The Martian by Andy Weir was published back in 2011, but I hadn't heard anything about it until recently. Now I think they're even making it into a movie with Matt Damon.

The hype and the promising blurb did not disappoint. I was immediately sucked into this story and couldn't stop reading. According to the back cover of the book, the author "is a lifelong space nerd and devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight." And it shows. Weir has found the perfect balance between believable scientific details of living on Mars with a suspenseful survival story. Watney is an admirable character: smart, funny, and a man of great ingenuity and optimism. I enjoyed reading about him and wanted him to succeed.

I went into this book knowing very little about its structure or what was going to happen, and I think that was a good thing. So, if you haven't read The Martian yet but want to, then I'd recommend that you stop reading my review right now and go read the book. If not, then be warned that there are spoilers ahead.

There are a lot of details when it comes to keeping Mark Watney alive, so Weir did not have a lot of time to develop other characters in the book, but he does a remarkable and creative job with the space he uses. Watney's team on the ship heading back to Earth are introduced primarily through a short letter Watney sends to them. In addition, the prominent players at NASA are all memorable and unique.

Because Mark is such a positive character, Weir does not delve too deeply into the psychological trauma and fear that is bound to come with being alone on Mars for such a long time. However, there are still a number of moments that are deeply touching. When NASA first discovers that Mark is alive and when Mark finally makes contact with NASA are the two that first come to mind, although there are others. I got so involved in Mark's life that I didn't want the book to end. I could have easily read another hundred pages. I hope the movie does this book justice.

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