Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue 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 kill 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. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? – Goodreads
Sci-Fi isn’t usually my thing. If I hear space travel or alien planets, I tend to lose interest. So when this book first hit my radar, it was with a short rebound and a thunk. Until I took a look at the back of the UK edition, and read:
I’m stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with Earth.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate.
If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst.
If the Habitat breaches, I’ll just kind of explode.
If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
Well, now, that just sounds fucking fantastic, doesn’t it?
I don’t have a lot of patience for drawn-out, overly technical survival stories. BUT. If there’s a smart, hilarious, irreverent main character, then that’s a whole new ball game. Mark Watney is all those things, and his narrative has the perfect balance of action, humour and tension. It begins with his discovery that he has been left behind, stranded on a barren planet months of travel away from Earth, with no way to communicate and inadequate food to see him until the arrival of the next expedition. Not to mention that his only entertainment is his crewmates’ odd selections of disco music and ’70s sitcoms. He needs to get off this rock, and soon.
Fortunately, for Mark and for us (listening in as he slowly starves wouldn’t be very entertaining, after all), astronauts are chosen not only for their expertise in certain areas (Mark is both a botanist and a mechanical engineer) but for their resourcefulness and ability to handle pressure. So our protagonist’s log is a humbling look into the problem-solving mind of a genius. He’s able to figure out how to overcome a whole range of problems (I won’t go into details because spoilers), not the least of which is how to produce more food in the barren Martian environment.
If you hadn’t picked up on it yet, I loved this book. Sure, it’s full of nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, life-or-death action. It’s also packed with impressive science (I’ve no idea if any of it’s accurate, but it sounded pretty convincing to me) and some pretty spectacular insights into space travel and life (or lack thereof) on Mars. But it’s also helmed by a damn likeable character who will have you giggling even as he nearly blows himself up or realizes he’s forgotten some detail that could put his life in danger.
I put some thought into this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone would find something to love in this story. It pretty much has everything. Adventure, an underdog, extreme circumstances, space potatoes, loyalty, overcoming of odds, daredevil antics and even a little sort-of romance.
This was one of the most entertaining books I read all year.
Author: Andy Weir
Published By: Broadway Books
Released: October 28, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Space
Date Read: December 17-21, 2014