Thursday, May 7, 2015

Book Report: The Martian by Andy Weir

Just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir.  It's a great novel with a hard science edge.

The story starts on Mars, where one of the astronauts on Mars has been left behind by his crew.  There was a freak sandstorm, and they thought he was dead, so they abandoned the mission.  Meanwhile, the astronaut Mark Watney managed to survive, but now he's got some bigger issues.  The crew took the communication radio with them.  He's got no way to talk to them, or Earth, or anybody.

Throughout the story he uses ingenuity to battle malfunctioning equipment, lack of resources, unintended consequences, and lots of other problems.  Many times, the solutions to his problems end up causing more problems.  This Martian Macgyver is ingenious, and I loved following along as he solved seemingly insurmountable problems, and ends up cheating death multiple times.

This is a first novel by the author, and it's heavy on tech and math and figuring stuff out.  But the character is very likable, his problems are intriguing, and his solutions are innovative. Overall the story was compelling and the book was hard to put down.

There's a little bit of language, and a little talk of sex, but I think the book would be appropriate for high school students.  If you took away maybe one page, it would be suitable for 12 year olds.

The story of how he wrote the book is pretty interesting.  A self-professed "Science Nerd" he started writing it on his blog a chapter at a time.  His friends encouraged him to collect it and put it on Kindle, and he did.  He would have put it on for free, but Kindle required a .99 minimum charge.  He charged it, and soon thousands started buying.  That ended with a bidding war for the movie rights, and a re-publishing by an actual publisher (and a stint on the NY Times best-seller list.)

After reading the novel, it seems like it would be possible for someone to eventually colonize Mars, like the Mars-One project, which is gathering resources and volunteers for a one way trip to Mars.  (I'm fascinated by this, and want to find out more and write about this.)

Or at least South Dakota.  (This is an actual ad for South Dakota, based on the interest for Mars One.)

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