Thursday, October 01, 2015
The Martian by Andy Weir
The author is a computer programmer and space fan who made a hobby of understanding how you could send a manned mission to Mars. Once he was into it, he wondered how you would deal with some disaster there involving the crew. It led to him posting a story for free on line of a single crew member being stranded and left for dead. That got enough interest that he responded to reader requests to have a kindle version. Now it's a best seller in kindle and regular print, much to the surprise of the author. It's not your normal version of an author's start in the business.
Science fiction has all kinds of angles, but usually involves an imagining of a technology that doesn't exist today (warp drive or flying cars) but at its best still has humans acting as we know them today but dealing with a different context. Because of Mr. Weir's extreme interest in the science, this story of a crew being the third to reach Mars, experiencing conditions requiring a quick evacuation with one of the crew apparently dying in the process, and that crewman surviving thereafter is as close to the known science of space travel as is available today. It is both a strength and weakness of the book.
The story is a good one that moves right along. You really like the stranded crewman and admire his ability to survive under extreme conditions. There are no bad guys here, just people acting as you hope they would when faced with the terrible knowledge that a person is stranded alone far away with no immediate vision of how he can survive. If you are interested in things technological, then the many descriptions of the science that allows him to move forward will make the story more believable. If you are not interested, then the story still works, but you may skip a lot of the technical description. Either way, it's a quick read and a good adventure story.