The Astronaut Alien

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Space is the final frontier, at least according to Star Trek, and it’s one of the least first-hand experientially explored things in our universe, which could be why space fascinates so many people so much. Aspects of space and the humanistic appeal of a stranded person’s struggle to be reunited with civilization drive Andy Weir’s The Martian.

Mark Watney is part of a six person team exploring Mars for NASA, but during the sixth Martian day (a.k.a. sol) a brutal storm injures Watney and leaves his suit’s bio-readings nonfunctional, the rest of the team believes him to be dead and protocol states that they leave his body behind while they escape from their now scrubbed mission. But with the impaired suit, the team had no way of knowing that Watney was actually alive in his now patched-up suit. As the only man on Mars, Watney has to figure out a way to survive for hundreds of sols on the limited supplies he has or face imminent death from all the obstacles that come his way. As a botanist and mechanical engineer, Watney is equipped with the skills, tools, and ingenuity to maintain his life with the hope of making to when NASA’s next Mars mission would reach Mars.

Watney’s humor was right up my alley and helped to explain just how he was able to psychologically survive a year on his own in the desolated Martian climate, not to mention that it provided some much needed comic relief to the dire situation presented. It was nice to get the whole story of what was going on in the world around Watney’s historic colonization through what was going on at NASA and on Hermes with his crewmates–it helped to make the entire story more realistic and kept the humanistic relatability that could have been lacking if we only knew Watney’s version of the story since he could easily become an unreliable narrator.

Considering that this is Weir’s debut novel, I am thoroughly impressed with what he was able to accomplish. He successfully navigated the line between fact and fiction–and I’m making a very educated guess here since science is not my strong suit and I know very little of space travel, well apart from what I learned from Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, or Firefly. And may I say, “holy cinematic read, Batman!” There are very few books written today that aren’t in some part conceived of in cinematic terms, thanks in (immensely) large part to the proliferation of films…and their tendency to adapt from existing works, namely novels. And I’m not going to lie, when I started reading this book, I was drawing serious parallels to Gravity and I’m still undecided if that’s a good or a bad thing, but toward the end, I pushed those thoughts aside and found myself simply rooting for Watney to overcome the hurdles Mars placed in his way.

Overall, I’d give this a 5 out of 5 stars.

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