Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Apollo 13 meets Castaway 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?

I can't believe how this book engaged me. I really didn't expect it and pretty much skimmed the scientific, botanist stuff about growing potatoes. And yet. I don't know how or when it happened but I got hooked and addicted. Mark is a modern day McGyver. He's an engineer and a botanist. He's all science and a problem solver. His initial survival was explained in terms I understood despite the fact that it contained biology, physics, and chemistry. See, he was headed to the shuttle with another crew member when he was hit by debris. His suit read that he was dead so the crew made the decision to bug out before the dust storm killed the other five.

But Mark woke up after a short stint of unconsciousness. He and his suit had been pierced by an antenna which created a vacuum, robbing him of positive pressure and the correct gasses to breathe. But since the antenna also pierced his flesh, he bled. The vacuum and the tilt which he landed created a seal in his suit which, when combined with the atmosphere on Mars, dehydrated which created a solid seal. His suit adjusted for the pressure and oxygen, filtered out the CO2 and he trudged back to the shuttle. But it was gone.

Mark keeps a log of his doings. It completely fascinated me. There is the science of the atmosphere, the geology, definitely chemistry, and humor. I bookmarked some of the antics and logs just because they made me laugh out loud while my husband slept. Which he didn't appreciate.

Is it scientifically sound? Don't know. It was sound enough for a college graduate who did not major in science. Mark Watney counts Mars days and enters then as Sols which I assume means solar rotation, or rather, rotations around the sun. Mars' sol is 24 hours and 40 minutes thus he can't really call them days because he's still an earthling.

Admittedly, there were times I forgot I wasn't reading a real story about a man left behind in the vein of Apollo13. It was that believable for me. But I'm not bothered by trajectory calculations or kilometers per second. I don't know how much bacteria is required to grow food nor how much torque one needs to throw oneself against a phone booth size air lock to roll it. I take it only on Watney's word that it will give you a terrible backache.

This book was completely unexpected and engaging. Contains quite a bit of swearing so be aware of that. Actually, that is what makes the log so very funny.

I'm passing this one on and ranting.

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