Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Martian (by Andy Weir)

I enjoyed the hard sci-fi, survivalist elements of Seveneves so much that I thought I might enjoy The Martian, and I did! Mark Watney is an astronaut (with specialties in botany and mechanical engineering) who is stranded on Mars when a mission goes awry. He has to figure out how to stretch his meager resources and use his science knowledge to survive for four years or so, until the next mission is scheduled to land.

The story is told largely through Watney's mission logs, and he has a great voice. Smart, slightly nerdy, with a slightly juvenile sense of humor. (There's even a "that's what she said" sprinkled in there.) If you've seen the movie trailer, or have ever read a book before, it won't surprise you to know that NASA eventually does figure out he's alive, so we do get some chapters from the point of view of the team on the ground, trying to figure out how they can communicate with and help Mark from many light-years away.

This is a tight novel, focusing not on emotions or interpersonal relationships, but on the specific things Watney does to try and survive. There is some math. For me, it scratched the same itch as Andromeda Strain: the plot hinges on the scientific details, and they are fascinating.

The reviews on this novel are almost overwhelmingly positive on Amazon, and reading the book made me interested in seeing the movie too (although it seems it has been a bit whitewashed -- put Asian people in movies, Hollywood). Thumbs up for a fun read!

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