Astronaut Mark Watney is left for dead on the surface of Mars as the rest of his crew escapes a deadly dust storm. But he’s not dead, and now he has to figure out how to let NASA back on earth know he’s still alive and how to get home. I’m pretty sure I have a permanent heart murmur now (thanks a lot, Weir) as about every tenth page of this book something awful happens to Mark that first he has to survive and then somehow fix. Explosive decompression event? Oh hell, that’s nothing, Mark’s the first guy to wreck a car on Mars.
I had to keep putting the book down because as long as I didn’t finish it Mark was still alive. I was irresistibly (and continually) reminded of that Star Trek episode, “City of the Edge of Forever,” where Spock tells Edith Keeler, “I am endeavoring, ma’am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.” Spock–for that matter, not even McGyver himself–had nothing on Mark.
And he is such a great guy, you’re just rooting for him every minute of every sol (Martian for day). I think my second favorite passage in the book is on p. 268, when Mark says
I need to ask myself, “What would an Apollo astronaut do?”
He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.”
Like Mark isn’t cooler than all of the Apollo astronauts put together.
But my favorite line is on the last page, when Mark says
Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.
As everyone back on earth and his crewmates on Hermes care. And so will you.
Okay, sucking the tears back into my eyeballs, here’s what I think:
I think this book should be read by
1. Every writer who thinks they know how to write a thriller. They don’t.
2. Every school kid ten and older. Every kid who reads this book is going to want to learn how Mark did all that. She’ll want to study mechanical engineering, navigation, botany, chemistry, astronomy. You want to raise a kid interested in STEM? Here you go.
3. Everyone else.
And opening this Friday…
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.