The Martian by Andy Weir (♦♦♦♦½)
Mark Watney is a botanist, mechanical engineer, and above all else an astronaut, who gets stranded on Mars, given for dead, when the crew of the Ares 3 is forced to evacuate the planet on Day 6 of the mission due to sustained gale force winds during a sand storm. Henceforth, Mark’s survival skills will be tested to the outmost.
I have been through different phases as a reader. In my teenage years I read science- fiction, among other genres. I outgrew my sci-fi years mostly due to lack of enough material to read in that genre, but I've broken the spell with The Martian by Andy Weir, thanks in part to Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves, who lured me to it based on her intriguing review. The Martian has been, by the way, named one the best books of 2014... And I bought a Kindle copy for a steal, so I had no excuse.
The Martian is hysterical, and addictive. It's so much nerdy fun that it should be a sin. The humor is reminiscent of Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, or vice-versa, because The Martian was first published in 2011. Both talk about science and technology in an irreverent yet full-of-wonder fashion.
I was powerless since page 1, because really, who starts a book with such well earned profanity?!
More than a science- fiction book, The Martian is popular science at its very best. It is brilliant yet unpretentious. Who knew someone would have the key to surviving the unimaginable on Mars?
But not everything is funny in the plot development, there is a lot of administrative stuff going on at NASA since they find out Mark Watney is alive. The fight for survival is evocative of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and the more modern Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The closest movie resemblances are Mission to Mars, Apollo 13, and the more recent Gravity and Europa Report.
The Martian reads like a movie script, and it has all the ingredients to be a great one too: humor, intra-agency politics, intergovernmental negotiations, and good science.
“Once I got home, I sulked for a while. All my brilliant plans foiled by thermodynamics. Damn you, Entropy!” Page 72
“Three sols later, Lewis Valley opened into a wide plain. So, again, I was left without references and relied on Phobos to guide me. There’s probably symbolism there. Phobos is the god of fear, and I’m letting it be my guide. Not a good sign.” Page 98
“It’s a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I’m the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn’t moved in a million years!I’m the first guy to drive long-distance on Mars. The first guy to spend more than thirty-one sols on Mars. The first guy to grow crops on Mars. First, first, first!” Page 99