Stars: 5 out of 5.
I can’t believe it took me so long to actually read this book! It’s been languishing on my TBR list since 2014. That’s 10 years. All I can say is that life got in the way and with so many other wonderful books, I got sidetracked. But I rectified that mistake now, and boy did I love this book! I am a big fan of the movie with Matt Damon, and I had found it clever and suspenseful, but let me tell you, the book is better, as books often are.
What I loved most about Mark Watney both in the book and the movies is his relentless optimism and ability to problem solve. Yes, he has times when he breaks down and freaks out and has a temper tantrum when things go from bad to worse, but he never just wallows in the misery. Yes, stuff happened, but it didn’t kill him (yet), so he will do everything in his power to prevent it from killing him, then troubleshoot everything to insure that he lives another day and is slightly closer to rescue. That sheer good humor is contagious and very fun to read about.
Because, honestly, Mark’s situation is really dire, if you think about it. He is stranded alone on a hostile planet with no means of communication with Earth or even his crewmates on the Hermes. And everyone thinks that he is dead. Another human would have despaired and given up, but not Mark.
The food won’t last until the next Ares mission lands on Mars? Let’s try to grow some potatoes on Martian soil. After all, he has half a dozen non-frozen potatoes to work with, and he can produce plenty of fertilizer. Sure, it will not smell good, but needs must. No way to communicate with Earth? Let’s do a field trip to pick up Pathfinder, and test if he can survive in a rover for long period of time. Stuff really went FUBAR? He is still alive, so he will figure out something to keep himself being alive until rescue comes.
I also liked the down to earth (or down to Mars) way this story was told. Sure, we are in the near future, so it’s a science fiction book, but all the technology and solutions that Mark comes up with are very plausible and accomplishable even with current day technology. And because it is so plausible, I found myself a lot more involved in Mark’s fate. Because this could happen in real life. We are already talking about a manned mission to Mars in the near future, so we could have a man stranded there in my life time (though I really really hope not).
I loved the very hopeful tone of this book as well. Yes, the situation is dire, but the author chose to concentrate on everyone’s efforts to save Mark Watney instead of finger pointing and dicussing who made what mistake leading to this situation. The author chose to show us a world united in a common goal, which is very refreshing and hopeful, especially in the current political climat.
Anyway, this is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it even for those who already saw the movie. There is a lot more here than ever made it into film.