The Book: The Martian
by Andy Weir, a breakaway hit. Maybe you've heard of it.The Basics:
Things have not gone well for the third manned mission to Mars. Just six sols into their thirty-sol mission, a dust storm threatens their ascent vehicle to such an extent that that they have to abort. But as they're fleeing to the vehicle, the storm takes out the communications array, and its collapse kills astronaut Mark Watney super fucking dead. Unable to go back for his body, the crew is forced to leave it behind. And thus, the crew is going to spend the ten-month trip back to Earth very dispirited.
But not nearly as dispirited as Watney is when he WAKES THE FUCK UP STRANDED ALONE ON MARS.OH SHIT:
Yeah, so, he may not be as dead as previously indicated.So, What Now?:
Obviously, Mark's situation is the definition of hopelessly dire: he's on a planet with a very thin atmosphere, enough food to last six people seventy days, living in basically a high-tech tent. It will be four years until anybody can rescue him, but because they think he's dead and he has no way to contact them and tell them otherwise, even that is a longshot. He's clearly going to die.
Except that Mark Watney is an awesome astronaut type person, so after his initial Oh Shit response, he immediately begins considering ways he can survive. Using resourcefulness, creativity, humor, and lots of math, he immediately gets to work making his impossible situation possible. Every time an obstacle is flung in his way, he figures his way around it with duct tape or potatoes or something, and you find yourself looking forward to finding out how he's going to get through THIS completely insurmountable mess.Sometimes NASA Butts In:
And the switch from Mark's first-person log entries to the third-person NASA bits is Weir's weakness. Those portions feel a little like a screenplay or script, and the characters seem a bit stock-Hollywood. One particular character, Mindy, does have an arc, but it's an oddly clunky one. Still, it's got some fun stuff--NASA's eventual realization that Something Is Up is pretty entertaining.Favorite Bit Of Survivaling
: The part where he builds water. Yes, he survives some more immediate and alarming things, true, although his water building is
explosive as hell. But I just love that he can fucking BUILD WATER out of its components.Space Place Book Club Time!:
So for some reason a whole bunch of us Space Placers independently decided to start reading this last week. I did because my sister's been after me to read it. I think the others did because the movie is coming out. I waited to finish the book before watching the trailer
. And while Matt Damon does not look at all like the Mark Watney in my head, hot DAMN I want to see the movie now.In Conclusion:
I am really pleased that OMGSCIENCE! is becoming so popular in media recently. Especially when the stories are as great as this one. I hope the pendulum doesn't swing away from this too fast, because I want more things like The Martian
. Go check it out!DISCUSSION QUESTION:
Do Hindus really say "Oh, gods"? I appreciate him diversifying his cast, but I'm seriously wondering if that's a thing.