I wish my brain was a big as Andy Weir's brain. This man is brilliant. How do you get non-science people to read a book about science? Make it fiction, stick an astronaut on Mars, and then leave him there. By himself. With no communication and very little food.
The Martian is a thrill ride from beginning to end, and even though I will freely admit to not knowing much about engineering, chemistry, and space, I couldn't put this down. What makes it even more fun is that you really could see this happening. Here's the premise: Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts who have landed on Mars to conduct an expedition. They've got supplies, a place to live, and all the tools they need to get things done before they get into their MAV and blast off the surface of Mars and back into space and their spaceship, which is in orbit. Then it's back to Earth. Everything was working just fine, until a big storm hits Mars, and the mission is cut short. They have to leave Mars now! And while they're making their way towards their escape, Mark is hit by something, knocked out, and blown away. All readings from his suit indicate he has no oxygen and is dead. With time dwindling away, Commander Lewis has no choice but to leave him and keep the other astronauts alive by getting back to their spaceship. Racked with guilt, they are all haunted by the knowledge that Mark Watney is dead on the surface of Mars.
Except Mark's not dead. Miracles do happen, and his space suit is still functioning. He wakes up, realizes he's alive, and soon also realizes he's going to be dead quickly if he doesn't fix his suit and get to safety.
This begins Mark's quest to stay alive long enough to make it to the next Mars mission--IN FOUR YEARS. He's a botanist, so he makes a plan to grow potatoes. He's incredibly smart and MacGyver-like and has a wicked sense of humor. Keeping a log of his time on Mars, he works day and night to stay alive, make plans for rescue, and is fully cognizant that he may not make it off Mars alive.
Does he get rescued? What the heck happens?! I won't share anymore of the story, because you need the experience of living this adventure with Mark. I will admit some of the science lingo had my brain shutting down, but keep moving through. There's humor, poignancy, bravery, awe, and sheer moxy in this novel. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure stories, science, and anything to do with space. This is not science fiction as you would imagine. It's been optioned for a movie, and I hope it happens because it will make a heck of a movie. Men and women and teens will all enjoy this story.
Available in paperback and e-book.
Rating: 8/10 for a thrilling adventure, a great main character full of humor and courage, and references to ABBA, Three's Company, and disco.