Rating: 5 / 5
Botanist and astronaut Mark Watney is one of the few human beings to ever walk on Mars. Six days in though, a dust storm passes through, and in the chaos, a piece of equipment punctures his suit. He was thrown away from the rest of his crew, and his suit biometrics readings showed no activity. The storm is so severe that the mission has been scrapped, and the rest of his crew is forced to evacuate without him. By a miracle, he does survive, and now must find a way to survive, the will to survive, and means to contact Earth.
I’m not a big space nerd (while the photos from space are amazing, the isolation from society actually frightens me) but absolutely loved this book. The Martian is almost, kind-of-like the movie Gravity, but way funnier, more intense and more extreme. Shortly after the accident, no one knows that Mark is alive, and it is up to him to figure out how to survive. After that, he has to figure out a way to let NASA know that he is alive. Mark is an amazing character. The thought of being stranded anywhere (not to mention Mars) is daunting, but from the opening paragraph, Mark had me laughing. He is smart, resourceful, and witty, but not overly smart to come off as patronizing. I loved his ability to think through problems, to prioritize what is a pressing need, and to unabashedly say, “I’m fucked” when he was. He is so good he puts McGyver to shame.
The Martian isn’t told solely from Mark’s point of view. The majority is his journal, but the reader also gets to see what NASA engineers and senior management are doing to try to bring Mark home. Sure, there is a lot of science and engineering happening in the pages, but it is actually interesting. Although I can’t say I understood the majority of it, it was explained in a way that I understood what Mark’s problems were and how he went about tackling them. It’s fascinating how everything can be boiled down to numbers to figure out exactly how long Mark can survive given various scenarios; he calculates how much water a day he will need, what his caloric intake is and how to maintain it, and even the quantity of oxygen he will need and the amount of carbon dioxide he will exhale.
I can’t stress enough how amazing a book The Martian is. It is full of heart, and is a great tribute to human ingenuity and perseverance.
The Bottom Line: This is an absolute must-read. You don’t need an engineering degree to enjoy it, but you will probably need a good chunk of time because The Martian is not a book you’ll want to put down once you start.