By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The Martian, by Andy Weir

MartianThere are few things in the world that incite pure terror in the human mind more… than the thought of being the only person left on the entire planet.  Make that planet an inhospitable desert like Mars and it gets a bit worse.  The Martian, by Andy Weir, is a book that explores the possibility of what it would feel like to be inadvertently abandoned on Mars.

Mark Watney maintains a surprisingly good attitude for a man who has been deserted on a dead planet.  Six days into a mission on Mars, Watney and his crew must leave early, due to an unexpected wind storm.  In their hasty retreat to the shuttle, Mark gets injured and separated.  His space suit suffers enough damage that the computer shows Mark has no pulse, leaving his crew mates to think that he has met his demise.  Faced with losing the whole crew to keep searching for what they believe to be Mark’s dead body, the Captain makes the difficult decision to return to Earth.

Most of the story is told through Mark’s journal entries, but parts of the story are also written from the vantage point of other crew members and NASA officials.  This fast-paced novel develops quickly, without getting overly suspenseful.  I think Mark’s level-headed approach keeps things from getting too stressful, since the astronaut never gets overly despondent.  A born problem solver, Mark methodically sets himself tasks, while gamely maintaining his sense of humor.  I found myself grinning as I read lines such as, “I had to get something to stand on.  I used a geological sample container (also known as a ‘box’),” even as I simultaneously feared for Mark’s life.  I thoroughly enjoyed going from one issue to the next, waiting to see how Mark was going to tackle each problem.

This is Weir’s first book, but hopefully it will not be his last.  Weir gives readers a glimpse into what it’s like to be an astronaut without getting overly technical.  With echoes of Ernest Cline and Orson Scott Card, Weir paints an extraordinary picture of one man’s quest to survive.  I sincerely hope I will never be stranded on Mars, but if I am, I may have a fighting chance after reading The Martian.

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