Published: February 11, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (Book Club Selection)
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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?
Once again, I'm probably the last person around to read this. However, this time at least, there is a good reason for it. It was the selection for my book club this month and I try to read the selections within a month of the meeting. So, I've owned a copy of this book for months but had to wait (well, made myself wait) until just recently to read it.
The big question is: does it live up to the hype? Yes, yes it does. I was actually a little wary of this book going in. From what I had heard about it, I was afraid it would be a Castaway scenario where it would be one character talking to himself (or to an inanimate object). Thankfully, that is not the case. Yes, the bulk of the book is Mark Watney trying to survive on Mars, but there are also scenes with NASA and with Watney's crew as they travel away from him. And Mark never talks to a soccer ball, or personifies any other non-living thing, so that is a plus.
There is a a staggering amount of science in this book, but don't let that scare you off. I do not have a scientific mind at all and I was able to get through it. I will say I did better when Mark was going through the science than when the people from NASA or the Hermes crew were relaying it. Weir created a great voice with Mark, which is necessary since the bulk of the book is in his voice. He has a great sense of humor and even the driest science monologue was entertaining when it was coming from him. However, I am kind of amazed at how much chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering he knows as a botanist (yes, I know everyone had multiple roles but...wow....)
The movie version will be out later this year and I am in no way making a dig at the book when I say I think it will make a great movie. It does have a very linear plot which translates well to film but doesn't always work on the page. Here, however, is an exception. The fact that Weir has directed everything in this book to one point is truly effective and I think that, if he had deviated at all from that, the whole narrative may have fallen apart.
I read this book in one day, which I am rarely able to do these days. Once I picked it up, I just couldn't put it down and I'm pretty sure that most people would have the same experience.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.