From the book blurb :
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.
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?
To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. When I picked up my kindle to read this book, it fused to my hand. I went about and did all my chores one-handed. When I had to leave for work, I had to pry the kindle out of my hand with a screwdriver. And since you are wondering, yes, there was blood (the screwdriver was sharp) and yes, the kindle is undamaged.
If you’ve seen Gravity, you are familiar with the alone in space predicament. If you have watched Moon, you have already met the lone man on the moon. If you’ve read John Nance’s Orbit, you know what “stuck in orbit” means. “The Martian” might seem like one of these books/movies, but while superficially similar, this is a very different book.
The narration starts with the log entry for “Sol 6”, Sol being the equivalent of an earth day. High speed winds cause a mission abort 6 days in. En route to the escape vehicle, astronaut Mark Watney is hit by debris, knocked out, and mistaken for dead, when his body-suit computer drops off the grid. His body is lost in the dust-storm and Mission Commander Lewis, after making many attempts to find him, decides to leave. Watney wakes up much after the ship has departed, utterly alone on a harsh planet.
So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.
If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of these things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.
The book continues via log entries for each Sol, in which Watney records his attempts at survival. He tells us first of the Mars Missions, explains the logistics of each mission, and gives us the lowdown on the food-air-water situation needed for survival. Then he gets to work attempting to better his chances.
Astronaut Mark Watney is a remarkable character – a mechanical engineer/botanist, with great courage, resourcefulness, ingenuity, and to top it all – a sense of humor. His sunny disposition is one of the reasons he is on this trip to Mars. He is faced with insurmountable odds – food and water supplies are limited, he has no communication with earth, and he might just go insane from the loneliness. Hopelessness looms. Still he perseveres, prodding himself into survival mode with wry humor; his words made me laugh out loud and go teary-eyed at the same time.
This book has only one character for many, many chapters (this Korean film comes to mind). We have a few other characters, with mission engineers at NASA, Houston but for the most part it’s just Mark Watney, all by his lonesome self on Mars, writing his log entries. You’d think it’d get boring. You’d be wrong. This is a wonderfully gripping novel. There’s Mark in a bit of tough spot, spilling his technical guts in his log entries. And here are we, the readers, hanging onto his every word, hoping that he makes it. He’s just that kind of guy. And it’s just that kind of book.
If you read one sci-fi book this year, let it be this one.
P.S. : In this book the Director of Mars Operations is one Venkat Kapoor. Now while Kapoor is one smart cookie, “Venkat Kapoor” is an unlikely Indian name (email me and I’ll tell you why). I’m wondering how Andy Weir came up with this name – did he just piece together an Indian first name and last name that he was familiar with? Does he actually know a Venkat Kapoor? And can I meet him too?