Read from my local library
Mark Watney is a NASA astronaut currently on a mission to Mars. Whilst he and the rest of the crew are on the planet, a freak dust storm separates Mark from the rest of the crew. A number of things combined lead the crew to believe that Mark has been killed and they escape the dangerous situation, leaving him behind.
But Mark didn’t die. And now he’s stranded alone on the red planet. There’s any number of things that could go wrong. The Oxygenator could break down, leaving him to suffocate. The Water Reclaimer could break down, leaving him to die of thirst. The Habitat could be breached in which case that’ll just make him explode. If none of those things happen….well Mark only has enough food to last him a certain amount of time. The next mission to Mars won’t arrive for years, well past the time Mark’s food will have run out.
But then there’s the really fun part…..no one on Earth knows that he’s alive. And he has no way to tell them.
I’d been hearing a lot about this book lately. Science fiction isn’t usually my thing but this sounded really interesting and in a way, quite plausible. There was something about the horror of it that appealed to me. The idea of being the only person on another planet, unable to contact Earth and with everyone thinking that you were dead…..it was just going to make for a good story.
Mark is smart. There’s no way around that – he does work for NASA after all, so he has to be a brain. And luckily for Mark, he happens to be the perfect combination of things that lends him the best chance of surviving on Mars. In order to streamline the mission and the weight of the crafts that take them to the planet, each of the team members play multiple roles. Mark is the team’s engineer and also a botanist so…within days he’s figured out how to grow potatoes on Mars – a lot of potatoes. He knows that the meal packs he has left aren’t going to be anywhere near enough to last him until the next mission to Mars arrives in something like four years time. And so he grows potatoes to supplement his diet, adding carbs to the vitamins he’ll already have in the form of pills of which he has plenty. He has enough water, so long as the Water Reclaimer doesn’t break down and if he can keep the Habitat (the “Hab”) secure, he’ll be fine. The only problem is, no one knows that he’s alive, the Hab has no communication equipment and when the next mission to Mars lands on the planet it’ll be 3000kms away.
Originally the author had trouble selling this manuscript and so he posted it online for free, for people to read. By request, he also made a Kindle version and sold it for 0.99c, the minimum price you can set. It became a hit and publishers obviously realised what they had missed, snapping it up and it’s become a worldwide bestseller. The film rights have also been sold and the movie, with Matt Damon playing Mark Watney will be out in the later half of this year. You can tell reading it that it really does have the potential to make a great movie, if well done. A lot of it focuses on Mark being alone, figuring things out and the book seems to work in a bit of a pattern: Mark stuffs something up or something goes wrong and he needs to figure out how to fix it/get out of it/etc. The first thing that goes wrong obviously is Mark being left behind, for reasons that are really no one’s fault, just a bad combination of events. He begins to keep a diary, presumably in the beginning, for whoever is able to rescue his body, years in the future. But then he decides that he might as well make the best go of it, begins growing potatoes and trying to figure out other ways in which he might be able to survive. He’s incredibly good at problem solving and it helps that he has the skills to make things, fix things, alter things, etc. All of the things Mark has to do he usually accomplishes with almost ridiculous ease and even though there are often setbacks, I never really felt like there was a chance that Mark wouldn’t be able to fix it.
The science in this book is obviously heavily researched and it’s incredibly detailed. I don’t have a science brain so some of it went over my head (ok more than some) but I appreciated the effort that the author had obviously gone to in order to make his story as authentic as possible. For some people the pages about making water or calculating whatever might get a bit dry but they’re broken up and balanced by Mark’s humour, which is kind of teenage nerd boy.
As well as Mark’s point of view, we also get the points of view of various people who work at NASA as they realise what has unfolded via satellite photos. Weir does a great job of building the tension as he teases to the reader the various ways Mark could perhaps be rescued before smashing them to pieces and starting over again. This is a clever and enjoyable story and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie and how they adapt it to the big screen.
Book #52 of 2015
The Martian is my 3rd book for the Eclectic Reading Challenge, ticking off the category Science fiction set in space
- Retellings (of fairytale, legends or myth)
- A book set in a country starting with the letter S (eg. Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Slovakia)
- PI Crime (fiction featuring a private investigator)
- A novel published before you were born
- Contemporary romance
Fiction for foodies(fiction featuring food/food related business)
- Microhistory (Non Fiction)
Science Fiction set in space Sports(Fiction or Non fiction)
- Featuring diversity
- Epistolary Fiction (fiction written in the format of letters/emails/diary entries)
- Middle Grade/YA Adventure