Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Martian

It hasn't all been bad news on the literary front. I mean, sure, I've been slogging through Fifty Shades of Grey in weekly installments since before Christmas, but I've also managed to read my share of good stuff.

One of those is Andy Weir's The Martian.

I just finished tearing through this a couple of hours ago. It's one hell of a suspenseful book, and a very readable one; it hooked me immediately and didn't let me go until the ride was over. Here's the opening:

I'm pretty much fucked.
That's my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare.
I don't even know who'll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.
For the record . . . I didn't die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can't blame them. Maybe there'll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, "Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars."
And it'll be right, probably. 'Cause I'll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did.
From there on, it's a race against time and depleting resources as Mark Watney, left behind by a NASA mission to Mars, tries to keep himself alive.

I've said this here before: science fascinates me, but I just don't have a head for it. Never have, never will. I've failed so many science courses in my life. When Neil deGrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan or Isaac Asimov is explaining it, I can follow along just fine, but I just can't work through a lot of it. (This is yet another reason why my childhood ambition to be an astronaut would never have worked out.) What I especially give Andy Weir credit for here is taking a hard science fiction premise that throws a lot of technical info at you and engages you as a reader. I didn't feel daunted reading about the details of orbital mechanics or rocket propellants or molecular processes. There's a lot of calculating being thrown at you here, but the combination of compelling story and conversational narrative compliment the intricacy of the science. The science drives the story; the character makes you give a damn about the science. (And hey, even Chris Hadfield praised the technical accuracy.)

I like that I'm seeing and now reading more space adventures that emphasize the realism of outer space itself. It's thrilling. It's not a deep novel about the existential meaning of our journey to the stars, and that's okay. It's a smart, exciting novel about what's involved in getting up there and, once we're there, surviving it.

It's outstanding fun. I dug it.


Roger Owen Green said...

REALLY glad you're reading something else, ANYTHING else.

bliss_infinte said...

I appreciate your literary sacrifice and current recommendation!

Geoff Valentine said...

I loved "The Martian" - great stuff: full of action, suspense, terrific characterizations, and well-researched hard sci-fi fun.

As for 50 shades of terrible, I commend your sticktuitiveness, but hasn't your subconscious mind been shouting a safeword at the top if its little gray lungs at your conscious mind for the past few months?