THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

Read this if you’re in the mood for: sci-fi stand-alone, space, witty dialogue, character-driven, general badassery, supporting characters, world-building, audiobook

Summary: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Read this if you like:
Cast Away (2000)
Remember rooting for Tom Hanks to figure out how to survive alone in a deserted location when everyone thinks he's dead? Meet Mark Watney. He's on Mars. (No, he doesn't have a Wilson, so at least we're spared that heartbreak. WILSONNNNNN.)

Survivorman (2004–)
It's like THE MARTIAN on Earth. The reality TV show's tagline says it all: "NO FOOD, NO SHELTER, NO FRESH WATER, NO TOOLS…NO CAMERA CREW.  ONE MAN – ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS." Les Stroud has a great sense of humor too, actually quite similar to Mark Watney as he talks into the camera about the crappy weather he's enduring and the bugs he had to eat for nutrition, and he similarly puts an optimistic spin on the less-than-ideal conditions. Plus, he's intelligent and finds creative ways to survive situations that others wouldn't.

The Rec: First off, this is an excellent book, but my love for it is exponentially higher because I listened to the audiobook, narrated to perfection by R.C. Bray. I had a minor interest in the movie, so in my usual books-before-movies fashion, I decided on a whim to get the audiobook from the library — and WHAT A WHIM IT WAS.

I could write sonnets to Mark Watney. He's recording his experience being stranded on Mars, so the whole time it feels like he's an interplanetary pen pal you desperately wish you could meet in real life. He's hilarious, and I already miss his deadpan-yet-optimistic sense of humor. Can you miss a fictional character? Yes. Yes you can.

The narration is interspersed with the POV of NASA, specifically of Venkat Kapoor, the head of Mars operations, who is also immensely entertaining in the face of ridiculously bad odds.

I especially appreciate the effort that Andy Weir put into making details as accurate as possible. Never once did I question Watney's explanations or authority, and that's a testament to Weir. Unlike action movies that require you to suspend disbelief over and over again, THE MARTIAN feels totally legit, so as a reader, you're immersed in Watney's experience and struggle for survival.

Between the well-timed switches in point of view and perfectly paced action, THE MARTIAN never disappoints and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I spent many extra minutes sitting in my parked car just waiting for a scene to finish — that's how you know it's a great book.

The Caveat: Sometimes there are math, engineering, and botany-related explanations of how and why things work as Watney figures out how to MacGyver his way out of a problem. They're comprehensible to your average non-astronaut, but still, if you're reading, you might be inspired to skim a bit. The audio narration makes all of this totally enjoyable, trust me.

You should read this because: Actually, you should listen to this. But either way, THE MARTIAN is a triple threat: a main character (and supporting characters!) you want to share a beer with; a kickass sense of humor; and a thrilling story of survival.

Read this book! (Before you see the movie!)
THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (Crown, February 2014)

Recommendation by: Donna