Millions of miles away on the surface of Mars, the Ares 3 crew encounters an unexpected disaster and has to abruptly abort the mission. In the chaos, botanist Mark Watney is injured and lost in a dust storm. Believing him dead, the rest of the crew escapes, leaving Mark stranded alone on Mars. With only enough supplies for a 10-day mission, Mark is in a dire predicament; the next Mars mission is 4 years away! Now he and the NASA crew on Earth have to figure out a way to help him survive the freezing temperatures, minimal water, dwindling food, and deteriorating equipment long enough to get him safely home.
I first became aware of The Martian by Andy Weir through the movie version, though I haven’t seen it (yet). So naturally I envisioned the main character looking like Matt Damon. 😉
This was an unusual survival story, because of the unique conditions found on an uninhabitable planet. Everyone lost in the wilderness on Earth has issues with finding food, water, and shelter, but this is exponentially worse. Food isn’t just hard to find, it’s literally non-existent; after the supplies are gone, that’s it. Same with water, and most importantly of all, oxygen. And lack of shelter is more than a matter of getting rained on or a bit of frostbite, since most of Mars registers at -55 C (-67 F) with almost no atmosphere. Simply put, the odds are waaaaaaayyyy against him making it more than a few weeks at best. The result is that the suspense was amped way up! Something that would be a tiny inconvenience on Earth, like a small frayed spot in a piece of cloth, could potentially be fatal on Mars. Big problems, like being 3200 kilometers from the only possible escape craft, seem almost insurmountable.
Luckily our hero has an IQ of approximately ten million, and a PhD in biology, chemistry, engineering, computer tech, and mathematics! Seriously, some of the solutions this guy comes up with are crazy complicated. If I had been in his place, I would have taken one look at the calculations necessary to rig the megabio-oxygenator to turn 863 gigajoulemeters of picophenolhydrazine into 103 liters of hydrogen that could be made into 79 liters of water, then just given up and walked out of an air lock. I know you have to be pretty smart to be an astronaut, but DAMN.
Watney’s part of the story is written in journal entries, which was a good choice. It allows us to live the experience through his own words, and allows his personality to shine through. Despite the desperate nature of the story, the book is actually pretty funny!
My only complaint about the book is that Watney seemed impervious to loneliness and other negative mental issues. Even a few months in solitary confinement can seriously disturb people, but he was alone (literally the only person on the PLANET) for a year and a half. Realistically that would be mentally devastating. Not that I want the book to be depressing or anything, but his 100% high spirits right through to the very end detracted from the reality for me.
Anyway, I enjoyed the book, and I’ll be watching the movie in the next couple of days. Should be fun! 🙂
Cover Report: Because of the movie tie-in, the cover was the same as the movie poster: a close up of Matt Damon in a spacesuit. Not a great cover, but it draws recognition. I give it a C.
Typo Police: No typos found.
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