Monday, October 12, 2015

R. I. P. X: The Martian

The Martian, by Andy Weir

 My husband and 15yo child told me I had to read this book right away, as soon as possible.  "But it's RIP right now!" I protested.  "I'm trying to focus on scary books!" 
"The Martian is scary," they pointed out. 
"It's supposed to be more like Gothic or horror," I explained.  "It's called Readers Imbibing Peril." 
"There is peril on every page!  He spends the whole time in peril!" they said. 
Well, that was pretty convincing.  So my final RIP title is  The Martian.

In the near future, NASA is sending manned expeditions to Mars.  It takes a really long time to get to Mars!    During the Ares III expedition, a month-long mission is cut short by a bad storm.  As the astronauts struggle toward the module that will take them back into space, the most junior member of the team is struck by flying debris and thrown out of sight.  His biometric systems all show him to be dead.  The team has to give up the search and leave without him, but Mark Watney is alive.

Once Watney wakes up, he realizes what's gone wrong--and that if he can figure out how to survive for four years, he could meet the next Mars expedition at their landing site.  Watney is an engineer and botanist, so he starts working on one problem at a time.  Water.  Food.  Communications.  And every day, Mars does its best to kill him.

 This is a great, exciting SF novel.  Everything in it is carefully researched and possible; Weir got all the orbits right and everything.  There is a lot of engineering talk, which you can enjoy or kind of skim.  Watney is a fun guy who is easy to root for; Weir does not go all dark and psychological in his book.  I suspect that in order to have the story work at all, you have to make your survivor an extremely stable personality with a penchant for jokes.  He does take care to point out that any astronaut chosen for a long-term mission would have to be like that, so it's not totally out there, and it lets Weird focus on the survival stuff.

It's hard to put down once you get into it, which is pretty quickly.  About 30 pages from the end I started begging my teen to just reassure me of Watney's survival.  She wouldn't.

I really enjoyed it, it's exciting and fun, and incidentally I learned a lot about Mars.  I haven't seen the movie yet, but we do plan to go.


Anonymous said...

Did you really want to know whether Mark Watney survived, though? Or nah? (I did, and I read the end, but I always do.)

Kristen M. said...

I definitely think this one fits nicely into the Peril category. I'm really surprised to see people dislike this book. The strange thing is that the three I recently saw were British. Did we love the book because we're Americans and we have had a stellar (no pun intended) space program all of our lives? I have been wondering about this for days.

Jean said...

I figured Watney would survive, but I was getting nervous! I knew SOMETHING bad would have to happen.

Kristen, I think maybe it's the lack of psychology. The book is mostly about solving engineering problems, not the plain fact that most of us would go insane if left alone on Mars with nothing but a lot of 70s media for company. He just doesn't do the emotional part, and I think a lot of people are more interested in that than in how to solve a problem expressed in milliwatts. I think we can enjoy both, but I can see where it might not be everyone's cup of tea. :)