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Friday, April 4, 2014

Left for Dead on Mars, an Astronaut Has to Fend for Himself

Posted by on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 2:17 PM

"I'm pretty much fucked," Mark Watney says in the first line of Andy Weir's thriller The Martian, and that just about sums it up. Watney is an astronaut, and he's just been left for dead on the surface of Mars after a chaotic accident, with no way to get home. But Watney was put on the mission in part due to his remarkable problem-solving abilities, and he immediately gets to work trying to survive.

The Martian is currently enjoying a moment of fame; word of mouth has propelled the book onto bestseller lists and kept it there. I'm sure the PR department in charge of promoting the book collectively wet themselves when Gravity became such a box office phenomenon last fall, because nobody could have predicted that popular culture would have room for two narratives about abandoned astronauts. But it turns out that The Martian scratches a very different itch than Gravity. It's relentlessly technical—Watney is a big math nerd—and while Gravity was a thriller that unfolded in more or less real time, Watney has to use his cunning to stay alive for months, until a rescue mission can be mustered and sent for him.

In a blurb on the back of The Martian, real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield praises the book's "fascinating technical accuracy." I'll have to take his word for it, but Weir definitely makes everything sound realistic. This is not a book that's going to win awards for the quality of its prose—the language is there to propel the plot, and not much more—but it'll keep you turning pages well past your bedtime. I was totally invested in Watley's story, and the way Weir mercilessly throws problems in his way on every page, like an impetuous Old Testament God, is intoxicating. Those who enjoyed the techno-thrillers of Michael Crichton will likely find a new patron saint in Weir.


Comments (4) RSS

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Cato the Younger Younger 1
Just open the helmet dude: you're fucked
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on April 4, 2014 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Got this as it came out from the library, and now there's 343 holds on 65 copies? That's practically one hold per page.

Also don't be turned off by the Crichton comparison. The Martian is the opposite of Crichton's humorless, anti-science, and anti-scientist stuff.
Posted by viiless on April 4, 2014 at 4:04 PM · Report this

10 bucks is three times more than I pay for a Kindle book.

But based on your review I just 1-clicked it.…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 4, 2014 at 6:53 PM · Report this

Well I tore through that pretty quickly, great read.

One question I have for the author is why didn't NASA send one, if not more, fuel cells up there.

Since he was able to generate hydrogen in at least two ways, he could have stored that in a compressed tank, and fed it to a fuel cell, giving his Rover far greater range.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 7, 2014 at 10:42 PM · Report this

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