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Book Review: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

Mars from the Hubble space telescope
Mars from the Hubble space telescope
NASA

“The Martian” by Andy Weir starts with the log of an astronaut, Mark Watney, who, because of a dust storm and a series of unlikely errors, finds himself left for dead on Mars when the rest of his crew blast off and head back to Earth. After taking stock of his situation, with limited food supplies, oxygen making and water reclamation equipment that could fail at any time, and Mars being what it is, a chilly, arid world with little atmosphere soaked with radiation 100 million miles from home, he comes to a conclusion.

“I’m pretty much f-----.”

Having come to that conclusion, Watney, both a botanist and an engineer, sets out to survive until rescue occurs. What follows is an epic of survival that is a combination of Robison Crusoe and Apollo 13. Much of the action features Watney solving one intractable problem after another to lengthen his lifespan on the Red Planet.

The action goes into high gear when NASA, somewhat belatedly, discovers that they have a man still alive on Mars. The space agency shows the spirit it had during Apollo and mounts a world-wide effort to find a way to bring more supplies to their Martian castaway and, in the fullness of time, rescue him. The story is at once epic in scope and personal in theme. Watney is always an engaging character, showing one part pluck and one part self effacement and entirely the right stuff.

With the popularity of astronauts in peril movies such as “Gravity” and before it the aforementioned “Apollo 13” evident, this book cries out for a cinematic version. Hollywood has been put on notice.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, and The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper