Bring him home

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This books is great. For science fiction lovers who like attention to detail, this is manna from Mars. Mark Whatney is part of a Mars expedition and after a storm disaster he finds himself left for dead after the crew had to abandon the planet. Communications with Earth are down, he has a limited supply of food and equipment that was designed to keep him alive for weeks, not years. In his words, he’s “pretty much fucked”.
Raw honesty is the cornerstone of this book. Watney is a likeable protagonist, and mainly because he is unflinchingly honest. He keeps a video diary (his part of the narrative) and he pulls no punches. There are detailed descriptions of recycling urine, turning human waste into fertiliser and so on, so those with a delicate composition may not want to venture here. But that would be a shame –because this is a story about human spirit. Of wanting to not only survive, but to be reunited with one’s tribe, to belong to something bigger than oneself.
Watney is a wonderful everyman – the reader roots for him all the way. The players back on Earth and the crew of Hermes, the escape ship, are also well realised. Mitch Henderson, the NASA mission director who is desperate to tell the Hermes crew their team-member is actually alive, is terrific. His superior, NASA director Teddy Sanders is really believable as well – trying to weigh up all the factors and keep everyone happy. Venkat Kapoor, Director of Mars operations is tasked with working out how to keep Watney alive and bring him home and his journey on Earth mirrors Watney’s in many ways in terms of testing, building and creating things that have never been done before. The Hermes crew has the right amount of hutzpah and determination, particularly Lewis, the mission commander. Every character is well crafted.
One of the best parts of this book is the amount of time given to Watney, and how he is thinking. He is the loudest voice here and he should be. The others are really bit players, trying to keep up. The other thing I really liked about The Martian is the lack of melodrama. There is DRAMA, but nothing is over the top or lacking credibility, which means it is seated in reality, but still really tense.
No spoilers, but there are certainly highs and lows here and a wonderful, grounded (pardon the pun) central character.
Highly recommended for anyone over the age of 14 – some swearing, but nothing gratuitous.

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