by Andy Weir
Crown, 369 pp.
I don’t think the words “labor of love” have ever been a more apt description of a book than with Andy Weir’s The Martian. The author’s belief in the story and fondness for the main character are absolutely vibrant.
The Martian was originally self-published by Weir in 2012. Since then, Crown has bought up the rights to the book and re-issued it. Ridley Scott currently has plans to film the book with Matt Damon in the lead.
The basic plot is simple: Astronaut Mark Watney is part of an expedition to Mars that has to abort their mission when a massive dust storm threatens to disable their ascent vehicle. As the crew beats a hasty retreat, Watney is struck down by a piece of debris and blown off into the storm, apparently dead. When he regains consciousness he finds himself completely alone on the red planet with no way of communicating with Earth and no hope of a timely rescue.
So, how does one survive on Mars? It’s a great story that draws easy comparison to Robinson Crusoe and Apollo 13 but, to my mind, bears an even stronger resemblance to the classic pre-New Wave science fiction stories of engineers doing what they do best. How do you make water out of rocket fuel? How do you make Martian soil fertile enough to sustain crops? How do you communicate with Earth? Watney overcomes problem after problem and maintains a smartass sense of humor throughout.
It’s impossible to read this without appreciating just how much research went into writing it. This is one of those books that puts the “science” back into science fiction.
If you take my advice and read The Martian, be sure to set aside a weekend for it because you will not be able to put it down once you start.