The Martian
Andy Weir

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 he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his 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 skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The Martian book cover

“It’s kind of silly if you think about it. I’m in my space suit on Mars and I’m navigating with 16th century tools. But hey, they work”.

Now this is the sort of story to get your teeth into. It reminded me of Journey Into Space with a modern twist and rather amusing hero to boot. It’s not the sort of work that resounds deeply afterward; there’s a lightness to the way it’s written that lets you come away having finished it without any baggage. But while in there, you’re really feeling it and wondering just how much more this guy can take.

““I could find something sharp in here and poke a hole in the glove of my EVA suit. I could use the escaping air as a thruster and fly my way to you. The source of thrust would be on my arm, so I’d be able to direct it pretty easily.”
“How does he come up with this shit?” Martinez interjected.

“I can’t see you having any control if you did that,” Lewis said. “You’d be eyeballing the intercept and using a thrust vector you can barely control.”

“I admit it’s fatally dangerous,” Watney said. “But consider this: I’d get to fly around like Iron Man.””

Everything’s very contrived, of course, but that’s just how this sort of story works. I can’t quite finger what’s so delightful: it’s a bit cheesy in places, really, looking at it objectively. But for some reason, I was pretty hooked.

““The Vehicular Airlock?” Johanssen said. “You want to… open it?”

“Plenty of air in the ship,” Lewis said. “It’d give us a good kick.”

“Ye-es…” Martinez said as he brought up the software. “And it might blow the nose of the ship off in the process.”

“Also, all the air would leave,” Johanssen felt compelled to add.”

So? TO me, it’s properly modernised pulp-era sci-fi for the now. I must admit, the ending didn’t exactly surprise, and I must further add that the copy I was sent for free says “Redistribution of this e-book is permitted, so long as it is distributed for free.” whereas the author’s website now says it’s being taken up by a big publisher and so is no longer available. Hey. Whatever the rules and rights of the thing, it was a well-told story and I’m rather glad I read it.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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