Review of ‘The Martian’

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One of the first humans to set foot on Mars, after a freak storm and an accident that caused his crew to think him dead, Mark Watney was left behind to potentially become the first human to die on the Red Planet. A botanist, and something of a rebel, Watney decides to survive.

He uses his botanical and engineering skill, as well as his stubborn will to live, to find a way to survive, and when NASA discovers he’s still alive, all stops are pulled out to find a way to bring him home. When his crew mates, still in space aboard the Hermes enroute to Earth, learn he’s survived, they too decide they will do what it takes to recover him.

The Martian by Andy Weir is a riveting thriller that follows Mark’s log that he’s decided to leave behind just in case he doesn’t survive, so that the world will know what he did, and the bureaucratic and political maneuvering on Earth as a government organization must step way outside its normal procedures to achieve the impossible. This is a book that pleases on a number of levels. On the one hand, the ‘Robinson Crusoe, lost in space,’ aspect of the main character is an outright adventure story. As a non-scientist, I can’t vouch for the scientific and technical details, but the way they come through in Mark’s journal sounds credible. When the story veers away from Mark to NASA, we see people operating within an impersonal bureaucracy in unique and sometimes startling ways. Finally, while the response of Mark’s crew to the news that he’s still alive only takes up a small part of the book, other than his efforts to stay alive, these are some of the most dramatic and telling moments in the story. Anyone who has ever been in combat, or in a first-responder crisis situation will recognize the impulse to risk all to save a comrade, and cheer the crew of Hermes on as they overcome obstacle after obstacle to ‘bring their buddy back alive.’

I’ve not seen the movie, but I seriously doubt that it could be any better than the book, which allowed me to use my imagination to see, hear, and feel what was  happening. Normally, I describe a book like this as impossible to put down. This one, though, I read over a period of two months, taking my time to carefully absorb every word, every nuance, and I’m glad I did. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

I received this book as a gift. I give it five stars.

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