I ignored this book for a long time. I picked it up and read the summary and put it down. It kept showing up in my recommendations and I kept hitting “Not Interested.” Lots of people read it – lots, but I know when I’m looking at boring grown up stuff, right? But then I took my son to see Jurassic World the other night and saw this preview. Watch it and tell me you aren’t a little interested.
I known, right?
I went home and immediately downloaded the preview chapters. Then I bought it – under $6? Uh, yes. Then I read for hours before I finally forced myself to stop because it was 2 a.m. and I had already promised the kids a swimming trip early the next day. I still managed to finish it in under 24 hours (I did not read while they were swimming – not because that is irresponsible but because my ebook readers aren’t waterproof). I was fascinated, and I think you will be too.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
Look, the cover isn’t really grabbing me, and that summary sounds so serious, but don’t reject this book until you try it. Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon in the preview in a spot on casting decision IMHO) is a really engaging narrator. Sure, he is talking about science, but he is so funny that you can’t help but become instantly invested in his survival. Also, you know that even if he dies, you are going to have a good time hanging out with him until Mars takes him out. The real trick in a book like this is to keep the tedium of the scenario from becoming a tedious read, and this author succeeds. The repetitive nature of Watney’s existence is really well balanced with the tension of his survival and/or plans for rescue. Also, he talks about all the stuff you really wonder about, namely excrement and what you do with it in space, because, come on, how do you do that stuff in space or Mars or at a really sketchy rest stop? That is what readers really want to know, and Weir gives it to them. This isn’t the only instance where he shows an understanding of how to play to an audience – one really interesting decision was to bring in the narrative on Earth because that gave the readers an opportunity to get some dramatic irony that really ramped up both hope and fear for the protagonist. I’m not going to lie to you – there is science in this book, and it was science that barely brushed the tip of my head as it attempted to blow over it. I fully expected to scan those paragraphs with numbers and calculations and formulas. Imagine my surprise when I actually found I was reading every word. I was able to follow the logic, and I was able to appreciate almost every experiment Watney desperately needed to perform. Boring Teacher Talk Warning – As a teacher, all I could think was that this book would be perfect for a science teacher’s classroom library and also as a fascinating way to engage kids in simulated experiments to see if they could work things out like the protagonist did. End of Boring Teacher Talk. I’m so impressed with the way this book turned out, and I found the bonus interview and essay on the kindle version really interesting. Some mature language, but I would still hand this to any of you jokers without a qualm.
This book is available in the MHS library for checkout.