I first heard about this book when I started looking into self-publishing to try and get my stories published. This book, along with Hugh Howey’s Silo series represented the success of the self-publishing movement, and an inspiration for all aspiring authors. And yet, I didn’t check this book out until now. I suppose it was seeing the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation that finally did that. It was a very interesting trailer, and that combined with the recommendation of a friend of mine, I finally gave it a shot. And boy am I glad I did. This book is really great.
Now, I went in not knowing that much. I knew the basic premise, and pieced some other stuff together from the trailer. All I really knew was that it was about an astronaut who went on a manned mission to Mars, and after an accident is stranded on the planet by himself. It’s Castaway meet Gravity. Which is a really great premise. And man did the author, Andy Weir, knock it out of the park. In a way I really wasn’t anticipating. This book was really good, and also, pretty hilarious. The main character, Mark Watney, is a sarcastic popculture nerd, and spends most of the book making ridiculous jokes to keep himself from going insane.
The premise of the book is pretty simple. In the not-too-distant future Mark Watney is a member of a manned mission to Mars. He’s an engineer/botanist, which seems like a really random combination of specialties, but all the other characters had dual responsibilities, so I guess it’s a NASA thing. Anyway, they get on Mars, and everything is going fine, until a freak sandstorm occurs. The only way off Mars was a smaller rocket called a MAV that could get the to their real ship, which is in orbit, and the sandstorm begins threatening the stability of the MAV, so they decide the abort the mission, and leave. But as they’re fleeing the planet, their communication satellite is blown off, and smashes into Watney. He’s stabbed by the antenna, but miraculously isn’t killed, the antenna was even able to keep the seal of his spacesuit, so he doesn’t die. But the rest of the astronauts assume he’s dead, especially because his bio metrics are flat lined, so they leave him for dead, and get off Mars. But he’s not dead. He’s now the only human on Mars, stuck in a habitat with equipment that was only meant to survive a couple weeks, with no possible way to communicate with Earth, since it was the communication antenna that pierced him.
And the rest of the book is about Mark Watney using all of his science skills to survive on Mars. At first his plan is simply to survive until the next Mars mission…in four years, but that ends up being impossible. And after he manages to find an old rover and fix it’s radio, is suddenly able to contact an astonished Earth, which bands together to save Watney from becoming the first human to die on Mars. The cast of characters expands to include the NASA scientists who desperately begin working to save Watney. And man does nothing go right for Mark. Every possible thing that could go wrong, does. He destroys the radio, after he finally manages to grow some potatoes the airlock breaks and kills them all, the rocket that’s being sent with food to him explodes, and when he finally starts heading to safety, he flips the rover he rigged to make the long haul. It gets ridiculous eventually, almost cartoonish the amount of things that go wrong, but it works for the story. And it even gets a happy ending. He goes to a different MAV that awaiting the next mission, and his old crew comes back to Mars’ orbit to pick him up, and after some further chaos, they all get home.
This was a great novel, and fascinating sci-fi experience. It’s one of the most realistic sci-fi books I’ve ever read, and while I don’t know if the science is exactly right, it sure felt that way. Most of the chapters are written like a blog, steam of conscious of Watney explaining exactly what he’s doing, as dumbned down as he could, for his mission reports. We follow everything he does, from planting potatoes, to watching bad 70’s TV, to creating water from liquid oxygen and hydrozine batteries. It runs across the gamut, and really teaches you some stuff. I don’t know enough about science to know how accurate the science is, but I assume it’s pretty much spot-on. It was a super book, and makes me excited to see what this writer has coming.
The Martian was written by Andy Weir.
Categories: Page Turners