Mark Watney is not having a good day.
It started out great: he’s on Mars, part of a manned mission of exploration.
His day got a bit worse: A savage storm blows in, its intensity and size enough to warrant the crew deciding to ditch the mission. Immediately.
Promptly went awful: Mark gets hit by a piece of communication equipment, and his suit is punctured. He flatlines.
Absolute worst: The crew scrambles to evacuate, abandoning Mars and Mark’s body.
Only thing is, Mark is still alive.
But he’s the only person who knows. He has to survive his injury, get back inside shelter, and work out what to do next.
The Martian is one of the few books in the last year that has had me sneaking paragraphs and pages at every opportunity. More telling is the number of times I grabbed whichever son was nearest to read aloud a particularly wonderful snippet – it’s been years since I’ve done that!
While being mostly set on Mars, The Martian is far more an action filled adventure than science-fiction. There is science, of course – it’s a book about astronauts and Mars, of course there’s science! – but any detailed science is explained smoothly and easily in the course of the story.
“The oxygenator will turn it [CO2] into oxygen in its own time.
Then, I’ll release hydrazine, very slowly, over the iridium catalyst, to turn it into N2 and H2. I’ll direct the hydrogen to a small area and burn it.
As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion.
Firstly, hydrazine is some serious death. If I make any mistakes, there’ll be nothing left but the “Mark Watney Memorial Crater” where the Hab [Habitat] once stood.
Presuming I don’t f*** up with the hydrazine, there’s still the matter of burning hydrogen. I’m going to be setting a fire. In the Hab. On purpose.
If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the Hab was, they’d all answer “fire”. If you asked them what the result would be, they’d answer “death by fire.”
Not only is The Martian a gripping read, told mostly from Mark’s diary entries, but it’s carrying a whole lot of humour, dry wit, determination and emotional impact as well. Mark’s efforts on Mars are interspersed with the fallout on the crew (still months from landing back on Earth) and within NASA. There is some swearing (c’mon, he’s stranded on Mars without means of escape or long-term food supply, who wouldn’t curse?) but there’s also disco, heartache, refusal to give up, adventure and a guarantee that you will never, ever look at a potato the same way again.
Rated: PG – intermittent swearing, survival and mature themes
- The adventurous (at heart, in reality, in books read)
- Anyone wanting a thrilling, exciting read
- Stargazers, adrenalin junkies, scientific-bent types
- Potato farmers
- McGuyver fans and wannabes
Not recommended for:
- Strictly “romance-only” readers
- Anyone on medical advice to stay calm and relaxed