Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: sci-fi thriller.
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 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
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. Chances are, though, Mark 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’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.
As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive. But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.
Andy Weir’s The Martian is one of those books that are completely out of my comfort zone and yet I enjoyed it immensely. I read it after my husband kept asking me to for a month (he’d read it in a couple of days, he reads a lot but he really flew through this one) and I’m really, really glad I followed his advice. I read sci-fi sometimes but it’s usually YA dystopias or something similar, and my last attempt to read “true” sci-fi was not all that successful. So you could say I was worried, going into this book, that I would hate it – it received an ungodly amount of hype, got turned into a blockbuster movie, and everyone I know has been raving about it. This is why I am doubly glad it didn’t disappoint.
You can read the synopsis for a general idea of what you’re dealing with, but I’m going to go with this: if I was Mark Watney, I would be dead the moment the Mars Ascent Vehicle (and my crew mates) left the surface of the planet. Okay, so I’m a book person, not a science person (or a trained astronaut) but I feel like you’d have to be a very specific type of person to survive being stranded on another planet. I’m not a very relaxed flier and the thought of going into outer space terrifies me. Being left alone is the most claustrophobic (or perhaps agoraphobic, if you consider all that empty space) feeling I can imagine. I have never dreamed of being an astronaut when I was a kid, preferring to center my ambitions in more Earth-bound pursuits.
Anyway, if you consider my personality, it’s even weirder that I liked this book so much. A large part of my attraction to it is due to Mark himself. He is not attractive in any kind of romantic way (at least I imagined him to be kind of scrawny and, uh, smelly) but he’s such a great character. His narration (the story is mostly told through his logs, or journals) is funny, fast-paced, and thrilling. He can be a snarky a**hole sometimes but as he says, he can do whatever he wants because he’s stranded on Mars. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where everything was so strongly focused on a single character – and I loved it.
I have to say that the sciency bits sometimes confused me. I have a very poor grasp of physics and chemistry, due to a general lack of interest and very horrible school teachers, but I was something of a math geek and my biology knowledge is not terrible (I know, it doesn’t make sense but there you have it). Nevertheless, I found myself zoning out and skimming over some of Mark’s calculations (on the amount of air or water or energy needed for his survival, for example). I mean, I bet there are some people who are genuinely interested in this but I just had to take everything Weir had written at face value because I wouldn’t know that he’d made a mistake even if it was glaringly obvious to others.
I also kept comparing Mark Watney to Robinson Crusoe. Their stories are really similar if you think about it (and I half expected some aliens to pop up as a sci-fi version of Defoe’s cannibals). Mark is such a DIY genius, he can tackle everything by himself and sometimes he just seemed too heroic and capable. Don’t get me wrong, I never rooted against him, I just wished Weir had thought of a way to put a different spin on the castaway motif.
But all in all, this was a very good foray into a new-to-me genre and I am looking forward to a) watching the movie; b) seeing what Mr. Weir cooks up next.
Have you read The Martian? Or maybe you saw the movie? What did you think?
Did you ever dream of being an astronaut? Would you travel into space if you got a chance?
I’d love to hear from you! :)