Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir
Go buy this book! Don't be a fool like me and wait patiently for the library holds to cycle around to you. Spending money on this book so you can read it before you go see the movie is a wise decision.
Even if you're not a fan of science-fiction, I suspect most people will like the man versus nature conflict of this survival story.
Starting on page one, you know that astronaut Mark Watney has been stranded on Mars. He is the lowest ranked crew member of the Ares 3 manned mission to Mars. After six days on the planet, a sandstorm carries away their communication dish and threatens to tip the Mars ascent vehicle that will carry the whole crew back to their orbiting ship. NASA orders the crew to bail out and head home. On the walk to the ascent vehicle, Mark accidentally separates from the rest of the crew, sustains an injury, and falls unconscious. The crew assume he has died and abandon him.
And the rest of the book is Mark problem-solving over and over. As soon as he implements a solution, he usually creates a new problem. He makes a plan and then must immediately modify it. Mars tries to kill him at every opportunity. And it's riveting reading.
Not convinced? Well, I'm not a fan of spoilers. I made a concerted effort to read as little about this book as possible in advance. I knew that some kind of "something" occurred because this book has generated so much buzz. It was hard to ignore all references, but there were a few times when I put my fingers in my ears and ran from a room
Make it to chapter six. Chapter six is the game changer. I'm not writing anything more specific because I want you to be as thrilled at the surprise as I was. There's nothing weird like E.T showing up with a pay phone and Reese's Pieces. Just plot goodness!
My friend Megan had recommended this book to me several months ago. She even wrote a short review on her Goodreads account. Megan rarely writes reviews, so I knew she must be serious. Thank you Megan! I only wish I had purchased this book, so I could have read this story sooner.
I can share a few things about this book that won't spoil it.
For one, this fast-paced story is hard science-fiction, but don't let that scare you away. While the book does go deep into the science, it's all presented quite manageably. In a paragraph, there might be a few science terms, some math references, and then a summary statement where Mark explains all.
My science knowledge is pretty basic. When Mark starts explaining the facts about hydrogen, my frame of reference is the Hindenburg. I made it through the science and math just fine.
Plus the narrative works well for me. Mark is keeping a log of his days on Mars. Sometimes he is being technical, but he balances that hard science with his sense of humor, a trait that helps him persevere through the variety of problems he encounters. He's writing like he's having a conversation with whoever finds him, dead or alive.
At one point, he writes, "Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped."
There's also a flashback to the sandstorm, so the reader can learn more details about Mark losing contact with the rest of the crew.
And, finally, there's an awesome reference to The Fellowship of the Ring and the Council of Elrond.
What more could a geek ask for?