Like most readers I have a long to-read-list, but sometimes a book comes along and just elbows it’s way to the front of the line. That happened this week with The Martian.
I always look at the Big Ideas guest posts at John Scalzi’s blog Whatever. In these posts other authors gets a cance to introduce their book and write about the process of writing it. This usually makes for interesting reading whether I’m particularly inclined to read the book or not, and sometimes I find a book there that I have to read right NOW. I was really intrigued to read what Andy Weir wrote about his book The Martian and, after checking Goodreads and finding that most readers liked it, I bought it on Amazon and started reading.
It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
I really, really liked this book.
Mark is believable as an astronaut. He’s resourceful and not inclined to panic in a crisis. Before reading the book it seemed to me that the people who didn’t like it wanted Mark to spend more time thinking (or at least logging his thinking) about his family and friends, and generally being more miserable than he seems in the book. I’m glad he isn’t like that. I don’t think that wallowing in sentimentality would Mark any good in his situation. Nor do I think that being the sort of person who did that would be something that made him very likely to be chosen to go on a mission to Mars. Resourceful, extremely competent and calm in a crisis is much more how I perceive real astronauts. Mark fits the bill.
Most of the books is Mark’s journal, but there are also chapters from NASA who are working frantically to get him some help (as soon as they know he’s alive) and from the mission’s space ship both while the other astronauts thinks that Mark is dead and after they learn that he was left behind alive. This adds hugely to the story, just having Mark’s voice would make this a much less interesting and compelling read.
Andy Weir wanted this book to describe a plausible scenario and all the science to check out. I can’t vouch for the science, but to me it seems that he’s gotten most of the stuff right. That is cool!
And it’s a very, very exciting book too. One of the can’t-put-it-down reads, one of the books that had me eating dinner with one hand while holding the book in the other. Kristin more or less gave up talking to me while I was reading it.
I recommend it to everyone who likes exciting, plausible science fiction with a truly likeable and resourceful main character.