The Martian - a story that grabs you from the start
This is science fiction with an emphasis on science and it often feels like you are experiencing the events as they would unfold on the evening news. Andy Weir brings to life the character of astronaut Mark Watney in a very realistic way. Mark is an engineer, a botanist, and the junior member of the 6 person crew that forms the Ares 3 mission to Mars. Mark is a bit of a quirky character who keeps everything lose which is an important quality to have on a team when they are going to being living together in cramped quarters for an extended period of time. Of course, plans can abruptly change...
At the very start of the book Mark awakens to find that he has been left behind on Mars after the rest of the crew was forced to conduct an emergency evacuation with him presumed dead. Completely alone on the red planet, Mark must face the reality that the odds are severely stacked against him and he likely will be the first human being to die on Mars. He has a limited amount of food and water, no way to communicate his plight to NASA, and no hope of rescue as the next planned mission to Mars is years away.
However, it is not in Mark's nature to give up and he uses all of his scientific and engineering skills to slowly but surely extend his life expectancy. He dictates his decisions and progress in a series of log entries just in case anyone is ever able to recover it in the future. Some of the entries can be pretty dry and full of tedious calculations but the majority of them are witty and contain amusing observations. This very human side of Mark is what makes the book so good and you can't help but form a bond with him and root for him to find yet another solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem. R. C. Bray does an excellent job narrating the audiobook and he plays the role of Mark Watney extremely well.
The book also presents a secondary view of events from the perspective of those back on earth. NASA does have satellites in orbit of Mars and they eventually do figure out that Watney is alive which takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride. Watney’s plight becomes a global phenomenon and the biggest news story in the history of the world with NASA at the center of it.
Although the details provided to support the science and the math can be a bit boring at times, I assure you that it is worth looking past that fact and getting to know Mark Watney - astronaut, botanist, and space pirate. There is a film adaptation of the book that releases in the US on October 2, 2015 starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney. The trailer looks pretty good and I definitely plan to see the film as well.