Attention all fans of space-based science fiction: this book is a must-read! It’s a must-not-miss! It’s a must-buy! It’s a must-call-in-sick-to-work-and-spend-all-day-reading! It’s a must-everything! IT IS A MUST!
This hilariously funny and absolutely fascinating story is about a botanist/engineer on a mission to Mars who gets separated from his crew in a disaster and ends up stranded alone. Mark Watney and his crewmates were on the planet’s surface when a dust/windstorm suddenly kicked up, with gusts so powerful they began to tip the MAV over (Mars Ascent Vehicle — how they get back to the mothership). While racing to the MAV to evacuate before it got trashed by the storm, Watney was struck by a piece of debris that punctured his abdomen. The force of the blow, combined with the minimal gravity of Mars, sent him flying into the swirling dust, and the damage to his suit knocked out his life support computer, sending faulty readings to the rest of the crew — to them, Mark looked dead; there was nothing they could do but leave him behind and get to safety themselves.
To Mark, on the other hand, Mark was very much alive — and now he was also stuck alone on the surface of Mars with no way to send an SOS to Earth.
After an initial round of losing his cool, Mark, an extremely sensible dude, pulls himself up and heads into the hab (a huge inflated tent where the crew lived and worked) to assess his situation. He’s got about 9 months of rations, a gadget that recycles water from the air and his urine and makes it potable again, several bottles of emergency water, about 10 potatoes they were saving for a holiday dinner, plenty of air to breathe, and a reliable shelter. He’s got tools. He’s got a bag of dirt from Earth he was going to use in his botany experiments. He’s got one HELL of a sense of humor. And, most importantly, Mark’s got moxie. As it turns out, moxie really comes in handy when you’re stranded on Mars. It’s a life saver, in fact.
Figuring he’s now stuck there for somewhere around four years, when the next planned mission to Mars is scheduled to land, Mark begins putting his noggin to work to figure out how to make 9 months of rations last 48. The novel is told primarily through entries in his journal, which detail his work (along with his random thoughts about Aquaman) as he begins working out how to convert Martian sand into soil he can grow Earth potatoes in, and then make enough water out of hydrogen, oxygen, and science (!) to water those crops indefinitely (without simultaneously blowing himself up <– the true trick to making water).
Meanwhile, alternating chapters come to us from Mission Control on Earth, where a satellite specialist has just taken a look at the latest pictures of the Mars hab, expecting to see it destroyed by the storm, and instead sees things that can’t possibly be right. How did the rover end up connected to the hab’s air lock? It wasn’t like that when the crew evacuat. . . holy shit, IS THAT MARK WATNEY?!
Eventually, Mark is able to rig up a way to communicate with Mission Control, and the various players, including his old crew, start working out a daring rescue plan. Meanwhile, we get treated to what is easily the most thoroughly entertaining — funny, smart, sharp, fascinating, impossible to put down — novels I have read in a really long time.
Oh man. Honestly. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a novel as much as I enjoyed this novel. It’s THAT GOOD, people.
Inspirational story: The Martian started out in 2011 as a self-published e-book Weir sold on Amazon for about a buck. As word of mouth spread, more and more copies sold, piquing the interest of Random House who finally offered Weir a book deal last year. That was quickly followed by a movie deal, no doubt partly inspired by the success of the film Gravity. In other words, the novel this computer nerd guy thought only his mom and best friends would buy has just exploded all the way to Hollywood — pretty darn great. Now, here’s hoping he’s already hard at work on the sequel (I’m totally game for a sequel, Andy!).