Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback
Published by Broadway Books on August 18th 2015
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Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue 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 kill 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. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
As an introvert, I sometimes crave time alone to do my own thing. Having a whole planet to myself would be a bit much though.
What would you do in astronaut Mark Watney’s boots? The only human being on Mars; your crewmates speeding away, thinking you had been killed in a storm; the rest of humanity 12 light-minutes away; any prospect of a rescue years away?
You would have a choice: die, sooner or later, with what degree of dignity you can muster — or fight to survive, knowing that the most likely outcome is still your death.
Escape Rating: A- The Martian breaks no new ground in the genre of near-future hard science fiction: there are no high concepts, no trippy rambles through strange histories, no examinations of alien societies, and no black monoliths. Instead, Weir offers a competent tale of tackling a problem in the face of long odds and indifferent nature… and winning.
A little over half of the book is in the form of Mark Watney’s log entries, and fortunately, his voice is engaging: snarky, determined, and smart, without being the voice of a secular plaster saint. The rest of the book serves as a love letter to NASA and human spaceflight programs in general. I can only hope that when push comes to shove, the nations of the world will demonstrate the same degree of cooperation in solving problems on Earth and beyond that was shown in The Martian.
For the folks who have seen the movie, the book offers pretty much the same experience: the main difference is the addition of a couple more hurdles for Watney to overcome.
The book is not perfect: while the cast of characters working to get Watney home is diverse and women are invariably portrayed as competent, ultimately the tale is that of somebody enjoying the epitome of male privilege: having thousands of people help rescue him and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to so. That’s a bit of a tendentious reading, of course — but suffice it to say that some readers may be left behind: insofar as they may reasonably wonder if somebody who looks like them would have been left behind, or have never gotten to Mars in the first place.
And yet… while we have problems enough on Earth, still ad astra per aspera resonates for me. If it does for you, you may well enjoy The Martian