The Martian by Andy Weir
Publisher’s Description: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue 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 kill 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. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
What I Liked: Mark Watney is a strong, fallible character. I can relate to him and enjoyed reading how he used science to solve problems. He makes understandable mistakes which obviously affect the solutions he attempts. I like the supporting cast and how they all pull together to rescue their crew mate and fellow human. The author appeared to do his research, giving me a good feeling of what it would be like to travel to, and be stranded on, Mars using mostly current technology. For example, communication is limited and much delayed, and traveling anywhere on Mars takes time.
What I Didn’t Like: I think the supporting cast was undeveloped and underutilized. The book talks about how the NASA people aren’t getting much sleep during the 18-month span of the story, but we’re never told just what they are doing with their time. I found no hidden depth in the book, which means I don’t feel the need to reread it. I think the author missed an opportunity to address politics and add depth to secondary characters by describing how hard it must have been to find funding for such a rescue mission. Indeed, this probably would have created some very tough choices for the characters, and while it’s not the life-or-death choices Mark has to make, it would have really added to the story.
Conclusion: This book pulled me in; I read late into the night several nights in a row, much later than I should have, and finished it with a long read into the early morning. As a stand-alone book, it’s quite good. Thinking about it after the fact, the items above bother me. The operation took over 18 months and probably billions of dollars to rescue one person. To think that no group would suggest money could be better spent in other areas is naive. Such a group would have made a good antagonist for the NASA folks. The ending seemed abrupt and needed a bit more, perhaps an epilogue to give me a sense of what the author thought might happen next. Still, it’s an entertaining read and I would recommend it to fans of science and space exploration.
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