Friday, January 24, 2014

Andy Weir Brings The Martian To Life

When Mark Watney is struck by an antenna array during a surprise storm on the surface of Mars, his Ares 3 mission colleagues assume he is dead and abort before anyone else is killed. Except, Watney isn't dead.

His suit was punctured, decompressed, and vitals flatlined. But in another impossible sequence of events, the antenna that almost kills him also saves his life. He lands, unconscious, in such a way that the antenna provides a weak seal— just enough for his suit to compensate.

Eventually, he regains consciousness to the sound of his carbon dioxide filters failing and, after the suit attempts to vent all the carbon dioxide polluted air, a high oxygen warning. Watney, acting mostly on impulse to the sound of emergency warnings, makes his way to the Mars Habitat (Hab), where the crew had planned to complete their mission.

Shortly after attending to his suit and wound, the horrid truth begins to creep into his head. Watney is stranded on Mars, alone, and nobody in the solar system knows that he is alive.

The Martian is a tale of high stakes survival. 

In the vein of the real life Apollo 13 crisis, The Martian is a fictional account of an astronaut stranded on Mars after his crew (believing him dead) abandons him for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) and begins their long voyage home on Hermes. The mistake is nobody's fault; little comfort for Watney.

While he has shelter in the Hab, a working water reclaimer, and 300 days of rations, the next planned mission to Mars with humans is four years off. He also has two important skill sets on his side. He is a mechanical engineer and a botanist.

It was part of his original mission to see see how well Earth plants might grow in Martian soil after it is been "infected" with Earth soil bacteria. If he can grow plants inside the Hab, he might be able to extend his life (along with rationing the prepackaged food supply) by another 100 or 200 days, inching him closer and closer to the 1412 days of food he needs.

In the interim, he is also trying to solve another pressing problem. Nobody on Hermes or Earth knows he is alive. And with his communication dish lost to the storm that nearly killed him, he has to find another way to communicate with NASA.

Split between technical explanation-laced log entries and NASA (once they become aware of his survival), The Martian is a likable and tightly written page turner that never delves into Watney's personal life because he is too busy attempting to survive the present. With the exception of the annoying interjections of yay! and boo! and mawhaha, Watney is a smart but uncomplicated protagonist who is easy to cheer on from the opening pages to the final entry.

A couple of graphs about author Andy Weir.

Andy Weir initially self-published The Martian in 2012 before it was picked up again and re-released by Crown Publishing after it earned more than 1,500 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.7 of 5 stars. The book received very similar reviews on Goodreads, becoming one of the best self-publishing success stories of the last decade.

Weir simply describes himself as one of many people who grew up hoping and believing in space travel. Since he would never have a chance to journey to the stars in real life, he began writing The Martian, one of what he hopes will be many stories about space travel.

Weir also writes short stories, several of which he shares on his website, including The Egg. The site also includes several works in progress, some of which Weir warns may or may not be finished.

The Martian By Andy Weir Lands 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The fast-moving and briskly paced space adventure-survival story is one of the most entertaining science fiction surprises you will find this year. There is no question Weir has fans here, but we temper some of our enthusiasm over the interjections and a NASA that feels slightly stuck in an Apollo-era time warp.

You can find The Martian by Andy Weir on Amazon. The book is also available from Barnes & Noble and you can download it for iBooks. The audiobook is narrated by R.C. Bray, who lends just enough grunt roughness to Watney, making the entire story even more convincing. Great read.
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