Prior to beginning the novel, this is what I knew: An astronaut left behind on Mars survives by eating potatoes. And there's science.
Here's what actually happens: Mark Watney, a member of the Ares 3 crew, is presumed dead and left on Mars when a storm comes up and the mission is aborted. He has to figure out a way to survive until the next Ares crew arrives. Through ingenuity and lots of crazy science, he manages to stay alive. A mission to Mars. A freak accident. One man's struggle to survive. 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 the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, Mark 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's not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth. As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive. But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.
The Martian is hilarious! It's the funniest book I've read in ages, and I wasn't anticipating that, even though people said it was funny. (I guess I should have believed them...) There is so much science in the book, and I'm not exactly a science kind of girl, yet it never gets overwhelming or boring. Most of the book is comprised of Watney's journal entries, and that's where the hilarity comes in. He's witty, sarcastic, and just plain funny—which is pretty amazing, considering his circumstances. Once he is (SPOILER ALERT!) finally back in contact with NASA, he continues to crack jokes on a regular basis ... including a very well timed "that's what she said" joke.
I so badly wanted Watney to survive, and I loved reading about the ups and downs as he tried to do just that. This is easily one of my most fun reading experiences this year! 5 stars.
Note: There is a lot of swearing in this book. So if you have a problem with excessive language (seriously, it begins in the very first line), then I'd skip the novel and go straight for the movie, which is rated PG-13 and contains much less swearing.
Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and chose to review it. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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