Books on Mars

Do you like books? Do you like Mars? Do you like books on Mars? I’ll bet you don’t know, because you’ve probably never been to Mars to see if you like reading there. In The Martian, a wonderful sci-fi novel by Andy Weir, Mark Watney has been there, and still is there, and it’s up to him to survive long enough to reach a desperate rescue attempt by NASA and the astronauts who left him there for dead in the first place.

I know it, sounds grim. And it IS grim! Mars is trying to kill this guy. It tries many times. Space is unforgiving. You think earth is hostilely trying to kill us all (well… actually, it is), but it’s got nothing on a planet like Mars. But Mark Watney has a brain, a sense of humor, and lots of spare parts and useful equipment that NASA sent up with the astronauts, and he decides to use them all to improve his odds of getting home.

I’m not going to spoil the book by talking about plot specifics, or even going so far as to tell you why Mark Watney is stranded on Mars to begin with, but it’s ok, because none of those things matter. They’ll matter when you read the book, but they aren’t requisite for making you want to read the book. What should convince you instead is the author’s strong storytelling ability combined with his sense of humor and scientific knowledge. He knows his stuff, but he’s not beating you over the head with it. Everything in this book has a reason for being there and for adding layer upon layer of background information to the story.

You’ll learn a lot while reading The Martian. You’ll learn about how to create water in space. You’ll learn about how airlocks and spacesuits and dust storms work. It’s a fascinatingly educational book, but you’re not aware of the fact that your brain is processing new and complex information. It feels like exploration, like unraveling a puzzle. The main character has to work through a whole series of intellectual challenges, figure out the science behind them, and make sure things are done right (preferably the first time). The fact that Andy makes all this easy to grasp and readily accessible to the reader is what creates a perfect mix of scientific reality and wonderful fiction.

The really fun thing about The Martian is that none of the technology or science described is outlandish or futuristic magic, like a lot of science fiction tends to contain. You’re left with the sense that the author exhaustively researched the current state of space travel technology and went for realism. Everything seems like it’s either currently feasible or could be in the very near future, which added greatly to the appeal of the story for me.

Even if you’re not a huge sci-fi nerd but just want a good novel with great character writing, solidly constructed details and background, and a believable and enjoyable storyline, this book is worth every penny.

It’s available from Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, the iBooks store, Kobo, and others. More details available on Andy Weir’s website.

I highly recommend it; it’s been awhile since I experienced as much pure enjoyment from a book as I did with this one.