Grab your Dramamine and freeze dried ice cream, ’cause were goin’ to space!
The Martian by Andy Weir. Published by Crown in February 2014. Originally self-published in 2011.
This book was the winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction in 2014.
It was also one of the 10 books chosen to receive the Alex Award for 2015.
Mark Watney is probably going to die. Alone. On Mars. He’s not excited about it – despite the memorials that will be erected in his honor. Impaled by a radio antenna during an intense dust storm, his crew had no choice but to leave him and seek the safety of their ship, Earthbound. Although alive, (for now), he has no idea how he’s going to survive the harsh elements of Mars with few resources and barely any food. With no communication to Earth, he has to get creative. And he does.
I feel a particular satisfaction when I’ve finished a book that has helped me broaden my understanding of a particular subject. Entertainment and knowledge! Like dinner and a movie. Weir’s book is full of science and math. At first I was skeptical – is this a novel or a college textbook? But, happily, it’s a bit of both. Explained in an accessible way, complex scientific processes are more readily understood. With careful articulation, the author bridges the gap between a layperson and a highly educated scientist. Could I make food from my own feces like Watney does? No, probably not (and I’d need to be near dead to even entertain this idea), but I had no problem following along with his poop potato growth process. Mmm, reconstituted fiber.
Andy Weir is no stranger to writing. Although The Martian is his first full-length novel, he’s also published few short stories. They are all available for free viewing, on his webpage. A very modest, plain HTML text webpage, I should add. But hey, it reads the same. Here it is:
Besides writing, it’s clear that Weir’s passion also lies in computers. His author bio does reveal such – he’s a software engineer by day. Which seems obvious now; Weir’s writing felt oddly familiar throughout the book. Like I was talking with my dad. I think they would get along quite well. Drinking straight espresso and cracking C++ jokes.
As an exciting endnote, Ridley Scott purchased the rights to create a title film. The Martian stars Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, who also played significant roles in the 2014 movie Interstellar. Their performances were, well, stellar. I have high hopes for their roles in this adaptation.
Overall, The Martian earned 4 out of 5 bookmarks.
Looking for similar science themed books? Try these:
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. First published in 1990 by Ballentine Books.
A science fiction classic, Jurassic Park is filled with science and math. Speculative science (as is The Martian, we don’t have dinosaurs running rampant, and we’ve not yet walked on Mars), but still theoretically sound nonetheless. I sheepishly admit that I’ve not read this yet – but I will!
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. To be published in May 2015 by William Morrow.
Even though this book isn’t out for a couple of months, I can assure you this will be in my hand on its release day. The book spans 5,000 years throughout space and time, across multiple galaxies. Although the author is rather mum about the details, the early reviews are a good indication of what to look forward to.
Only A Trillion: by Isaac Asimov. Originally published in 1957 by Ace.
Yes, it’s old – almost 60 years. But, the mathematics and science is not dated. This short nonfiction is densely packed with numbers and figures, covering various topics. I read it about 15 years ago; whereupon it truly dawned on me just how small I am in this great big universe. If you’ve been looking for a challenge (and you don’t mind feeling like a subatomic speck) this would be it.
If you have any interest in space science and physics at all, I highly recommend watching the movie Interstellar. Set in the near future, a group of astronauts attempt to find another habitable planet; since Earth will soon be unable to sustain food growth. Christopher Nolan directed the movie, but Dr. Kip Thorne is responsible for all of the science. A renowned American physicist, Thorne has made significant contributions to our understanding of the universe with his research. He’s also a longtime friend of Stephen Hawking. Before starting the film, Nolan had agreed that all science and math would be accurate and unembellished (except a few theoretical scenes). This book, The Science of Interstellar is just that – a deeper explanation of the science presented in the movie. The book’s clear layout and accompanying illustrations allow for greater understanding of complex concepts. Wormholes, fourth and fifth dimensions, the bending of space of time – it’s all explained. It’s not a walk in the park though; be prepared for mind-melting science. Isn’t that the best part, though?