Monday, December 8, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

 I like that old time rock n roll, that old time religion, and that old time science fiction. The Martian brings brings back that feeling I used to get when I read "hard" SF by Clarke or Asimov when the world was yet young. Goodreads bills it as a cross between Castaway and Apollo 13, and they're not too far off. My cousin first recommended this to me six months or so ago, and I put it on the virtual TBR pile, then when a colleague of mine also mentioned it, I pulled it to the top of the pile and picked up a copy from the library. It was a welcome break from some of the drivel I've seen lately. Don't get me started.

I've often mentioned that you have about ten pages to get me hooked, and to care about the characters in your story, and I think I was hooked from the first sentence, "I'm pretty much f**ked." I mean, what do you do with a line like that?

When the crew of the Ares 3 manned mission to Mars encounters a ferocious sandstorm which threatens to destroy their habitat, SOP is to abandon the mission and head back to Earth in the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle). When one member of the crew, Mark Watney, is impaled by an antenna blown off the habitat and apparently dead, rather than waste time hunting down his body in the sandstorm, Commander Lewis gives the order to lift off. But Mark, as the saying goes, is only "mostly dead."

He recovers to find himself alone and abandoned on Mars, with limited resources but a Robinson Crusoe-like ability to scrounge and repair and make things work with duct tape and canvas. His mishaps, maladies and misadventures are one of the most interesting tales around.

Weir, in his novel debut, does a great job of getting us into Watney's head, but also creates a small host of believable characters who step on stage as needed in later portions of the tale. The crew members, the NASA techs and bureaucrats, and even a few Chinese engineers all come with just the right amount of flesh, blood and background info, and not an ounce to waste.

I stayed up too late the first night, getting halfway through, and too late again the 2nd night, to find out how it all turned out and whether Mark made it home after all.

Hope we see some more from Mr. Weir.

A couple of quotes I loved.

"'Why does Elrond mean secret meeting?' Annie asked.
'Are we going to make a momentous decision?' Bruce Ng asked.
'Exactly,' Venkat said.
'How did you know that?' Annie asked, getting annoyed.
'Elrond,' Bruce said. 'The Council of Elrond, from Lord of the Rings. It's the meeting where they decide to destroy the One Ring.'
'Jesus,' Annie said, 'None of you got laid in high school, did you?'"

"Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped."

You'll have to discover your own favorites. Enjoy.


Bob/Sally said...

That was a great book, wasn't it? It engaged me from the start, and I honestly wasn't sure whether he'd ever make it home. Weir certainly wasn't shy about lobbing new obstacles in his way.

Jon said...

I would have been very upset if he hadn't made it. My all-time least favorite movie was A Perfect Storm.