The Martian - Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

First of all: Beautiful cover!!

Secondly: Freakin' awesome thriller of story! Calling it Apollo 13 set on Mars is the perfect analogy. This sci-fi, grounded very much reality, is sure to capture the interest of many a science/space geek.

Weir's writing is well-paced, and aside from a few moments that felt a emotionally manipulative, The Martian was every bit as captivating as I hoped it would be. It is also obvious that Weir did his homework for this novel. Much of the book is narrated through written logs by astronaut Mark Watney, and a good deal of these descriptive passages detail the science behind his survival and attempts to find a way to get back home. Alternating narratives give readers an opportunity to visit the chaos of the space program as men and women work around the clock to get Mark Watney home, as well as a look at the crew who left Watney on Mars as they travel home thinking their botanist has died.

Though some of the technical details may seem dry to readers more interested in the thrilling exploits, Weir managed to keep me entertained through Watney's more humorous and sarcastic tone, often peppering the detailed expositions on technology with jokes and dry humour. 
I got really bored, so I decided to pick a theme song. Something appropriate. And naturally, it should be something from Lewis's godawful seventies collection. It wouldn't be right any other way. There are plenty of great candidates: "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie, "Rocket Man" by Elton John, "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan.
But I settled on "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. 
Perhaps the one moment that felt a bit unnecessary, or perhaps could have been more integral to the story, was a moment during which the crew of the Hermes space craft talk to family members about their flight. These interactions occur once, and for good reason (they can only contact people through live video feeds once they are close to earth), but I couldn't help but feel that the interactions were meant to simply increase my emotional attachment to the crew. And while I understand the point, the fact that I noticed it was perhaps the problem.

That being said, The Martian is a thrill-ride of a book, full of adventure, sciency fun, lots of rumination on the caloric content of potatoes, life-threatening accidents, and the total chaos of a space program trying to get one man home from a planet far, far away. Characterization is solid, the pacing is relatively steady, and Weir builds up anticipation well throughout the novel. I was really impressed with the setting up of the martian landscape and Weir's detailed descriptions of life on Mars from an astronaut's perspective. I appreciated that I didn't keep stopping to think, "Wait, but how would he do ...?" 
So that is the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.

If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yea. I’m fucked.
Though marketed as a book for adults, I have a feeling that many teens will find this book an appealing choice among the available selections at the library or bookstore. I wouldn't even be surprised if it ended up as an Alex selection (but that's one committee I can never seem to predict!) I loved this one, and I hope many of you readers out there will love it as well!

Highly Recommended

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