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The Martian

I feel like we’re in the middle of a 6-part series on science fiction here on AB4T, but there really was no intention behind it. These are the books and reviews in front of us!

Today I present The Martian. I think Andy Weir and Crown Books must have the luck of the Gods. Thanks to their timing, one line sells this book, “If you liked Gravity, you should try The Martian.” But frankly, The Martian is so much better.

First, there’s no forced sentimentality, no swelling soundtrack. The words on the page are enough to create fear, incredulity, jolts of fear, and laughter. Yes, laughter. Watley’s sense of humor makes the book. Without it, some readers would be hard-pressed to wade through the scientific jargon and step-by-step procedures. But because his humor makes Watley so human, the novel becomes incredibly suspenseful. When one wrong move means death, alone, millions of miles from home, the reader is on the edge of her seat wondering if Watley can figure out how to survive against all the odds. 

This is the most realistic science fiction novel I’ve come across. No alternate worlds or super powers. No time travel or alien beings. There’s NASA ingenuity and training, and the hard and fast laws of physics, biology and space travel. Great stuff.

WEIR, Andy. The Martian. 368p. Crown. Feb. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9780804139021; ebk. ISBN 9780804139038.  The Martian

A small team of astronauts on the third manned NASA mission to Mars is overtaken by a violent dust storm and ordered to abort. As the crew struggles to return to its landing vehicle, Mark Watley is struck by a flying antenna that pierces his suit and his pelvis and knocks him down a hill far from the others.  Lucky for Watley, the way he lands allows blood to create a seal around the hole in his EVA suit and he survives. Only problem–he’s been left behind on Mars and everyone thinks he’s dead. He has the Hab to live in (built to last 31 days), a couple of rover vehicles, six EVA suits, food for 300 days, and no way to communicate with NASA or his team, now on its way home. Watley is no slouch, however. A mechanical engineer and botanist, he immediately begins figuring out how to survive. His methodical problem-solving and ability to “fix broken stuff” is astounding, but he needs to be rescued before his life-support systems wear down or his food runs out. Watley is great company and it’s a good thing, because nearly the entire novel is made up of his detailed, technical end-of-day log entries. He has a great sense of humor (his entries are punctuated by smart remarks), and a can-do attitude. This is a unique survival novel. Weir makes the real science in science fiction intriguing and suspenseful. Physics and robotics geeks will rejoice. Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” has nothing on Mark Watley.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.