What’s it all about?:
Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.
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?
What did I think?:
I first heard about this book through a podcast I listen to regularly, Books On The Nightstand (which I highly recommend, by the way). So when Richard and Judy picked it as part of their Autumn Book Club 2014, I was pleased to bump the book a little further up my huge TBR list. The premise of the book is nothing short of thrilling – Mark Watney is an astronaut on a mission to Mars with his crew when unfortunately something goes terribly wrong and his crew, believing him dead, return to the ship leaving him stranded. For Mark is very much alive, and now abandoned on Mars with little hope of ever getting home again. The novel is mainly based around journal entries made by Mark as he continues to battle the toxic atmosphere and come to the reality of the hopeless situation he now finds himself in. Luckily, his training and intellect as an astronaut assists him as he calculates what to do with his meagre rations of food and water, contemplates how to get a message to Earth and consider starting Mars’ first potato farm! He deduces that he is unlikely to have enough food or water to survive on until the next mission to Mars comes passing by so has to improvise and do it fast if he wants to survive.
Mark is a fantastic character with a wicked sense of self-deprecating humour that had me chuckling many times as his journal entries continued:
“My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain.”
Of course there are problems and danger involved, hey it would be a pretty boring and unrealistic account for the readers if there weren’t. However explosions, highly volatile gases and extreme radioactivity never get our protagonist down for a moment. He carries on regardless, toughing it out until a solution can be found to get him home. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that he does manage to make contact with Earth, and becomes somewhat of a celebrity as the entire world becomes involved in his fight to return. The sections of the novel set with the bigwigs at NASA were slightly less compelling but still made for an exciting read. I think the only thing that made me give it a slightly lower star rating than it perhaps deserves was purely my opinion on the scientific elements. I am a scientist in my other life and appreciated the research that must have gone into creating a story like this, but sometimes it was a bit too much and a lot of things went slightly over my head especially when it turned mathematical. I am certain however that this would be a big pull for other readers, who would find this particular element fascinating. In general, it is an exciting, interesting, realistic and beautifully imagined story of one man’s fight to survive in a hostile environment that has everything working against him. I’ll finish with my favourite quote of the book where Mark is communicating with Earth:
NASA: “Also, please watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the world.”
WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):