I got into this hard science fiction story from the start.
A Robinson Crusoe situation has occurred on the third
staffed mission to Mars, with the crew having to leave
during a fierce sandstorm and one member getting injured,
his spacesuit damaged, and left behind. The rest of the
crew think he is dead as the biomonitor on his suit was
wrecked - so was the communication array. They'll leave
Mars orbit without knowing he is still alive.
THE MARTIAN follows brave, resourceful Mark Watney's log
entries in the Habitat as he patches up himself and his
suit, takes stock and gloomily estimates that he can
survive for a month. Assuming another mission is sent, it
will reach Mars in about four years. The following day he
does the maths on stores and realises that food for six
people will keep one alive for almost a year, so his
mechanical engineering and botanical skills might be enough
to help him survive. He's got solar power, provided he
keeps sweeping dust off the panels, and a water and air
recycler. However Mark has no way to communicate and the
next mission will land 3,200 kilometres away. They won't
know he's alive.
Mark, becoming increasingly ingenious as he faces
increasingly complex problems, scavenges anything and
everything, and starts making soil out of Martian inert
earth and composted organic waste. He tries growing the
tiny amount of seeds he was sent with, plus anything like
potatoes out of the rations. But the plants will use his
water up faster.... Not only does indoors now smell
appalling, he realises that back at his family's home, it's
This tense, often dryly amusing survival story, and the
efforts made by NASA back on Earth working on the
assumption that they can do something to help a possible
survivor, reminded me of Clarke's A Fall Of Moondust.
Another good comparison is Kim Stanley Robinson's more
recent Red Mars trilogy. If you enjoyed those books,
and the Apollo 13 survival story, don't hesitate to snap up
THE MARTIAN. Publicists, astronauts and astrophysicists
alike were excellently depicted by Andy Weir. I was
cheering every tiny victory, urging on the trundling Mars
Rover and trying to anticipate the pitfalls. Even NASA
can't improve on duct tape.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first
people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to
evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself
stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal
Earth that heï¿½s aliveï¿½and even if he could get word out,
supplies would be gone long before a rescue 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 kill him first.
But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his
ingenuity, his engineering skillsï¿½and a relentless, dogged
refusal to quitï¿½he steadfastly confronts one seemingly
insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his
resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds