Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Martian ~ Andy Weir review

The Martian
February 11, 2014
369 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away 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?
The summary of The Martian was immediately appealing to. I really liked both 172 Hours on the Moon and Doctor Who's The Waters of Mars and loved the idea of another, not happy-go-lucky space story. I didn't win it from LibraryThing, but it looked to good to pass up - and it was!

Mark Watney is a bit like a nerdy MacGyver in space.

Not the first human being on Mars, Watney is instead the first to be left behind (not on purpose, of course) on the Red Planet.

The very beginning of the novel:
I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Fucked. [...]
Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.” -page 1
We start, right away, with Watney alone on Mars after an accident. It seems hard to believe he is not already dead - after what happened - but his inventiveness and knowledge quickly comes into play. Not to mention his humor. It is that unique way of dealing with things, having the knowledge of what to do while not fearing what could go wrong, and his positive, if snarky, outlook that continue through The Martian.

While it would seem easy to give up (hey, you're all alone on Mars with no plans of rescue), Watney does not.

For every failure, setback, or problem that arises, he has a plan. It may not always be a safe plan - even going so far as to be possibly deadly - but there's a plan. Using math and science that I could not always fully follow, Watney comes up with ways to keep from dying.  Watney (or, really, author Andy Weir) explains the 'why' of things so well, that there isn't a problem if you don't really follow it. You get it - or enough of it - and can understand the outcome.

Besides a plan, Watney has his sense of humor. Something whose role in preventing his death cannot be downplayed. He doesn't fall into a funk or a depression (all alone on a planet with no communication and no plans of rescue would make that oh so easy). Instead, he finds ways to make light of things, to find the humor. It not only keeps him going, it makes the story so much fun to read.

The Martian and Mars seem to have Mark Watney's demise just around every corner. As soon as it seems he has it all worked out, that he'll be okay, something else happens. A catastrophe, a minor mishap with a ripple effect of consequences. It is a novel - and character - that will keep you guessing with each turn of the page.

If you like space, like math, like science, like science fiction . . . really, even if you don't like all of that but enjoy a fantastic read, pick up The Martian. A great science fiction thriller (with, it deserves mentioning,  a character with some nice insights and questions on vintage entertainment and Aquaman) this is absolutely one to read.

I may not know the one thing I'd take with me to a secluded island, but The Martian would be on my list if a Mars trip were imminent.

Rating: 10/10

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