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The Martian
By Andy Weir
Crown Publishers, $24.00, 369pp
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
If you’ve heard the term “hard science fiction” but don’t know what it means, reading The Martian will answer your questions. It is the epitome of hard science fiction.

The narrator, Mark Watney, is an astronaut stranded on Mars due to an accident. His fellow crew members have had to leave thinking he’s dead. He has no way to contact them or earth and no hope of rescue before his food runs out.

So the book is the story of how he rescues himself. That, by the way, is a hard science fiction; someone uses science to solve an impossible situation.

The novel as a whole is really a tribute to the human soul and mind and the capacity for infinite ingenuity. I think any engineer would love this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it though the details were beyond me.

He is the Martian because he’s on Mars all alone. No aliens appear. There is no love interest. There is simply one man surviving a situation that no one logically could. If you’re thinking Robinson Crusoe, don’t. Crusoe had it easy compared to Watney.

Each time he solves a problem, a new one shows up worse than before. And that is the book.

I will confess that it would have been better if it were shorter. You can tell the author thoroughly enjoyed thinking up new disasters and then working out a plausible, logical way to solve them. Eventually, I grew a little tired of it, mostly, I think because Watney never changes. His personality is attractive and by the way, he has a sense of humor. There’s a lot of humor in the story. But it is not character-driven except that he has a character that is driven to survive by solving problems!

Still, The Martian is a page turner. You can’t wait to find out what he does next. Will he or won’t he be rescued and if so, how?

No spoilers, so I won’t tell you what happens but it’s all very logical and a lot of fun. ~~ Marian Powell

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