Six days into a month long Mars mission, a severe dust storm forced the crew to return to their ship leaving Mark Watney for dead on the planet surface. It therefore came as a shock to observers monitoring Mars satellite footage to discover signs of recent activity surrounding the Hab, a facility designed to house the crew during their stay. With no way of communicating with the now homebound ship or Earth, Mark puts his botanical and mechanical expertise to work and begins working out a long-term survival strategy. Between bouts of engineering genius and near catastrophic failures, Mark attempts to turn a few potatoes, night soil, water and Mars dirt into a means of sustenance capable of augmenting supplies that were left behind for the full crew. It is a long shot but if Mark can hold out long enough for the next scheduled expedition, then there is a chance, a slim chance of rescue. Trying to grow food is only the first of the many challenges that await. What Mark had no way of knowing was the entire planet had become engrossed by his plight and were pulling together to find a way of bringing him home despite a few mishaps on the Earth side.
Weir’s debut novel is an engrossing, largely science-based sci-fi survival tale that despite some overly long explanations of how/why things work, captures the attention and doesn’t let go. The sense of isolation Mark experiences and his innovative ways of problem solving coupled with a wry sense of humor make for a classic Robinson Crusoe adventure. The underlying message of how people can and do come together to help one another adds a nice touch. Expect a few holes in the science but those don’t take away from what is sure to be one of the better science fiction titles of the year. With a debut this good, one can only wonder what Weir has in store for his next title.
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