“But before long the human instinct for survival kicks in and Watney begins to plan a way out of his seemingly irreversible predicament. Page by page we accompany him on his long haul back to at least the chance of escape.”
Watney is part of an almost routine multi-manned mission to Mars. Experiments and explorations are going according to plan until a sudden violent sandstorm forces the crew to abandon their fragile base camp, board their rocket and prepare to lift off without a moment’s delay.
But Watney, still outside on the surface, is swept away by a 170 mph gust and the others have no choice but to leave without him.
He manages to make it back to base camp and as the storm dies as quickly as it began, the horrific reality begins to sink in. He is alone, millions of miles from home, all radio communications lost, with zero chance of rescue.
But before long the human instinct for survival kicks in and Watney begins to plan a way out of his seemingly irreversible predicament. Page by page we accompany him on his long haul back to at least the chance of escape. But the outcome is far from certain – unlike some of the statistics he wryly notes in the log that may never be read by another person.
‘Everywhere I go here, I’m the first… climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hasn’t moved in a million years! First person to be alone on an entire planet? First, first, first!’
And then, thanks to the castaway’s ingenious and inspired idea, Mission Control back in Houston realises that he is still alive. Can they reach him before his air, water and food run out? The race is on.
Watney’s gallows humour and his brushes with death as he uses every ounce of his intelligence and astronaut’s training to claw his way out of the pit will have you laughing and gasping by turns. I read this book in a weekend. I didn’t think I’d have the time to – but Andy Weir’s edge-of-the-seat storytelling didn’t leave me any choice.
“He is the first man stranded there without a way back to Earth.”
He is on Mars. Alone.
He has been abandoned there. Which brings with it a number of firsts.
He the first man ever to be entirely alone on the red planet.
He is the first man stranded there without a way back to Earth.
And he is the first to know exactly how long he has left to live in an alien world.
Precisely 31 days.
No wonder he’s annoyed.
Andy Weir’s terrific ‘lost in space’ novel is an absolute page turner from first to last. It owes something to the true-life drama of Apollo 13, the doomed 1970s moonshot when the crew of three made it back to Earth by the skin of their teeth (except when we see the movie about that epic struggle for survival, we know it ends well. The Martian brings no such with-hindsight guarantees).
Weir’s story also has something of Robinson Crusoe about it; a part-practical, part-psychological solo struggle against seemingly impossible odds. As such it is a quintessential human drama. As we turn the pages of Watney’s meticulously-kept log we are on Mars with him, sharing his sudden spurts of hope; his equally sudden collapses into despair and pessimism.
Tautly-written, full of extraordinary and fascinating detail about life in a frozen red desert so far from home, The Martian is one of the best thrillers either of us has read in years. Highly recommended.
Here are a selection of the reviews for The Martian
“Brilliant…a celebration of human ingenuity [and] the purest example of real-science sci-fi for many years…Utterly compelling.”
Wall Street Journal
“Terrific stuff, a crackling good read that devotees of space travel will devour like candy…succeeds on several levels and for a variety of reasons, not least of which is its surprising plausibility.”
“An impressively geeky debut…the technical details keep the story relentlessly precise and the suspense ramped up. And really, how can anyone not root for a regular dude to prove the U-S-A still has the Right Stuff?””