Mark Watney is stuck on Mars. He was separated from his crewmates during a dangerous wind storm, the team thinks he’s dead and they’ve reluctantly escaped in their Mars Ascent Vehicle. How will he survive the huge challenge ahead of him, in a NASA habitat, with no communication and only a limited supply of food and water?
Well Watney is no normal guy. Besides being an astronaut, he’s an engineer and a botanist. He’s also ridiculously optimistic and likes a good puzzle. These are qualities that serve him well during what could be a very long time on Mars.
I enjoyed reading The Martian. It’s a fast science fiction adventure with a positive feel. It’s easy to cheer for Watney, who finds himself in all kinds of dangerous and seemingly unsolvable situations. The story is presented mostly in journal format, but includes scenes from earth, radio communications and several third-person descriptions in space and on Mars. It’s suspenseful and moves at a good pace.
I expected a fair amount of science in this book. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I think The Martian gives the reader an overflowing abundance of math and science. Watney details his problem-solving strategies with textbook-like explanations. He’s like the teacher in the room who’s so excited about the problem, that he doesn’t notice the glazed-over eyes of his students. I’m not really a science or math girl, so I did find these sections a little slow. What they show, however, is that the very reason Watney is able to cope with the huge problems he encounters on Mars is because he is a calm, methodical, super-smart and innovative thinker.
Back on earth, the world is watching and NASA’s team of experts is working 24-7 to bring Watney home safely. Meanwhile, his crew is out in space, working their way home. It’s interesting to see how they all work together, how they measure time and distance and the plans they devise.
This is a science fiction action story, so don’t expect a lot of character development. There’s a little bit of intrigue and some world politics, but the story moves because of its basic rescue plot and not much else. Watney has an original way of talking, which includes a lot of swearing. But it’s mostly the kind when you hit your thumb with a hammer, all words, and not really offensive.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mars since I started this book. NASA has a rover wandering around on Mars right now, taking pictures. It’s fun to think that maybe once there was life on this planet. Check out these pictures:
I think The Martian will make a good movie. Because of the way it’s written, it’s easy to picture the scenes. And when I see the movie, maybe I’ll remember the scientific calculations Watney needed to know to keep his air supply safe!
If you’re wondering about the potential success of self-publishing your book, check out Andy Weir’s story:
Andy Weir is a software engineer and has always enjoyed studying relativistic physics, orbital mechanics and manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel. He started writing it in 2009 and spent a great deal of time researching. It was originally self-published in 2011. He first offered it for free (in serial format) on his website. Weir’s chapters were popular and he developed an enthusiastic fan base. His readers urged him to offer it in Kindle format on Amazon. This 99¢ Kindle version was hugely popular and became an Amazon best-seller, selling 35,000 copies in three months. That got some publishers’ attentions. Weir sold the audiobook publishing rights to Podium Publishing in 2013 and soon after, Crown Publishing bought the print rights. Twentieth Century Fox bought the film rights the same year and the movie, starring Matt Damon, is due to be released in November 2015.
Now that’s meteoric!
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