Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On The Kindle Now

"So that is the situation.  I'm stranded on Mars.  I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth.  Everyone thinks I'm dead.  I'm in a Hab that is designed to last thirty-one days.

If the oxygenator breaks down, I'll suffocate.  If the water reclaimer breaks down, I'll die of thirst.  If the Hab breaches, I'll kind of explode.  If none of those things happen, I'll eventually run out of food and starve to death.  

So, yea. I'm fucked."

I ran across this book somehow (maybe CSM weekly book review) and found it intriguing enough to give it a go.  And it's not bad.  After an accident the team of American astronauts leave poor Mark Watney by himself on Mars, thinking he has died.   It is a lot like Macguyver in that this guy has to fend for himself with whatever is at hand.  It is a clever story with perhaps too much technical jargon but when you get past those passages it revs up with plenty of suspense and ingenious plotting.  

I'll leave it for you guys to find out if Mark makes it, but you could do a lot worse than this Robinson Crusoe story that is believable and will have you rooting for manned space flights from NASA again.  By the way, what the Hell has happened to our space program?  We are now catching flights from the Russians up to the Space Station?  And the Chinese are landing a guy on the Moon this year?  OK, so they're almost 50 years late, but dammit, they are flying, aren't they.  More than I can say about us. 

Anyway, The Martian is a pretty decent summer beach read - I guess that means you won't have to do too much heavy thinking.  There are no aliens, no UFO's, no intergalactic space battles.  There is, however, one man's fight for survival in a hostile environment, by means of human ingenuity, and, yes, duct tape.

The good part is is it fairly riveting.  The downside is there are long passages where Mark is narrating his daily chores and myriad projects to stay alive.  I must admit I fast-forwarded a couple of times, and I imagine in writing parlance, that's not encouraged.  But for the most part it is a nice diverting little book that isn't trying to be Atlas Shrugged, or anything more than just a good old-fashioned stay-alive-until-we-rescue-you yarn.   If nothing else it is a cautionary tale for future missions to Mars, to not be careless and leave your engineer behind.  Think of it as a kind of planetary Home Alone.

If you enjoy a little science with your fiction, then try The Martian.   And don't forget the sunscreen and the duct tape.    

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