Things to know about me: I’m a voracious reader. Usually. Lately, I’ve had difficulty finding the time to read, and I haven’t seen anything out there that has spiked my interest. I’m not a Sci-Fi fan, and space isn’t a subject I would normally find compelling. However, The Martian, by Andy Weir has been at the top of the LA Times bestseller list for a couple of weeks, so I downloaded the sample to my Kindle.
All I can say is, whoa. I could not put it down. There are so many layers to this novel, which kept me thinking about it long after I finished it (last night, way past my bedtime!).
If you aren’t familiar with the novel, or have not seen the trailer for the upcoming movie, the gist is as follows: Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts that land on Mars. A dust storm forces the crew to abort their mission and evacuate suddenly. Thinking that Mark is dead, he is left behind.
He isn’t dead. He is stranded, with very little food, no way to communicate with earth, and limited life-sustaining essentials. Luckily, for him, he is a very resourceful engineer and botanist. What follows, in partial diary format, is his struggle to stay alive against a hostile and barren environment, all the while keeping his humor and positivity strong.
I was touched and amazed by Marks ingenuity. Since the crew was planning to stay on Mars for two months, a shelter is already there, as is equipment for making oxygen and water. Mark hacks many of the other systems, computers and personal items left behind to sustain himself, and eventually establishes contact with earth. In so doing, a plan is formulated for his rescue, but not without a lot of human error and circumstances beyond his control. One of those, three steps forward, one step back scenarios.
What I found amazing, besides his will to survive and total resourcefulness, was that he stayed so positive throughout the ordeal. Even though there is a ton of technical data and description, the author dumbs it down enough to make it still sound plausible, but doesn’t insult the reader with elementary talk.
It made me wonder, if such a scenario arose, what steps would the government actually take to rescue someone in such a dire position? Due to the technology discussed in the book, Mars is about 10 months travel from Earth (give or take). It’s not without risk for anyone to attempt a rescue, and the cost would be ridiculous. Would they really do it? Would they attempt to rescue one life and potentially put 4 or 5 others at risk to do so? Would they spend the money?
And then there’s Mark. How strong is a persons will to survive? What keeps him from just throwing in the towel and raiding the medicine galley that is left behind? He readily admits, several times, that he will probably die on Mars. Yet, he doesn’t give up.
This is what I mean by ‘many layers’. The only criticism I would give the book is the ease in which the government moves a rescue operation through the channels of management to actually make this happen. And quickly. Everyone knows things don’t move quickly in Washington.
In any event, I highly recommend the book. I can’t wait for the movie to be released.
What book have you read lately? I need a new recommendation!