Thursday, December 11, 2014

Houston, We Have a Problem

This gal (pointing her thumbs at herself) is not a “sci-fi” reader. Then she ventured off to Northeast Ohio Regional Library System's ‘Back to the Book’ workshop with her pal Cailey. This workshop’s theme was sci-fi, and I listened to John Scalzi, a prolific sci-fi author and entertaining speaker, talk about the science fiction genre and all the awesome books and people who follow it. One of the books he mentioned as a great one from this year was The Martian by Andy Weir, a new author. 

Mark Watney is an astronaut. Through a series of unfortunate events, he gets left on Mars. His NASA team thinks he is dead, and because of a giant storm on Mars, the team must leave or risk their lives. So there Mark is, helpless and completely alone on the red planet. Luckily, Mark is a very smart, innovative man (as one would hope a NASA astronaut would be) and with the supplies and shelter left from the mission he’s able to figure out how to survive, until the next mission to Mars… in four years. Luckily for Mark, someone from NASA notices he’s still alive and that’s when the fox chase begins.

The book starts as a series of logs from Mark. He outlines what he’s doing daily, problems that occur, and the crappy ‘70s disco music and tv shows he watches because that’s just about all he has for entertainment. There are a lot of technical details in this novel, but even I, a math/engineer layperson, could get through it (or skip over it). Mark’s narration feels realistic. Even though he’s in dire straits, he still maintains his sense of humor. I found myself laughing out loud when reading his sections. Weir did an amazing job of forming characters who feel like they could walk off the page and have a conversation with you. I loved Mark and wanted to buy him a beer and talk about engi-nerd things with him.

Once NASA figures out they left a man behind, sections of the novel begin looking at the happenings at NASA, along with Mark’s team who are on their way back to Earth. I enjoyed getting a little bit of everyone’s perspective and knowing what was going on behind the scenes while Mark was stuck on Mars. The rescue becomes a worldwide issue, even getting a show called “The Mark Watney Watch” every day of the week on CNN. I really enjoyed that Weir went so far as to put the social spin on Mark’s rescue. NASA not only had to worry about the rescue, but also about how the public was viewing their attempts. It added more depth to a novel that is layered in and of itself.

This was one of the best books I have read in a while. It was fun, technical, humorous, detailed, and at the end, thrilling. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys science, space, survival stories….or fiction in general! It just won the "Best Science Fiction Book" Goodreads Choice Award too! 

Oh also, this is slated to become a major motion picture, so read it before it gets ruined by Hollywood.


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