By Andy Weir
Caught in the midst of an unexpected and increasingly intense windstorm on the surface of Mars, the 6-person crew of Ares 3 have choice but to abort their mission after only 6 days on the planet. In the process of evacuation, Mark Watney loses contact with the team when his suit is breached by an antenna, indicating to the remaining crew that he has died. When Watney regains consciousness after the storm has passed, he finds himself alone on the surface of Mars facing the tremendous task of survival. Using a combination of ingenuity, training, and sheer dent of will, Watney finds a way to grow potatoes, maintain life support systems, and recover an old space probe to reinstate contact with Earth. Meanwhile, NASA frantically talks through every possible scenario to rescue Watney, pulling strings and cutting corners in every way possible. After an unsuccessful attempt by NASA to launch a resupply mission, the Ares 3 crew makes a slingshot journey back to Mars. As Watney’s food supply continues to dwindle, both Watney and the Ares 3 crew must deal with the technological breakdowns that come from extending a mission well beyond the intended completion date. Although time is of the essence, neither Watney nor Ares 3 can do anything to reach Watney sooner. Watney, the crew, NASA, and the rest of the world must wait helplessly and hope for the best.
“The Martian” by Andy Weir is an irresistibly captivating story of technology, possibility, wit, and the indomitable human spirit. To capture the different storylines in the novel, Weir writes from a combination of first person perspective to portray Watney’s struggles and achievements while also narrating the activities of NASA and the Ares 3 crew. Watney faces his challenges with a sense of realistic optimism, describing his tasks and plans with wry wit and sarcasm. He does not minimize the massive challenges he deals with on a daily basis, but neither does he let them overwhelm him. Throughout the novel, Weir gives the fabric of the story ample scientific background to explain Watney’s (and NASA’s) actions, instilling a sense of plausibility. The technology sounds believable, leaving the average reading free to become fully consumed by the Watney’s daily struggles rather than getting caught up in the details of questioning the logistics. The combination of details, snarky commentary, and striving against all odds crafts a story that quickly draws you in and keeps you turning page after page until the very end.
What a great book! Watney’s character is laugh-out-loud funny, and the storyline is amazingly compelling, though quite complex in the details. For a while, I tried to pay attention to all the science-y details to be sure that everything worked (in the fictional reality of the book), but I quickly became too caught up in the story to do much more than gloss over the technology because I just had to finish the book. Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, the book is well worth the read!