The Martian by Andy Weir
Crown, 2014. ISBN: 9780091956141.
(Age: Secondary/Adult) Highly recommended. Astronaut Mark Watney, one of the team sent to Mars, is abandoned when a storm forces the leader to make an instant decision. They see Mark being swept away by the storm and their data shows he is no longer alive.
But, he is alive and busting to keep alive until he can be rescued in four years time when the next Mars landing occurs. Trouble is that there is only so much food and water in the Hab, the tent-like construction built for the team of six. He assesses his chances objectively, deciding to eat part meals to conserve food, designing a way to reuse all the water he can and make some more using parts from the abandoned module. He devises a way to grow potatoes using those sent with them for Thanksgiving, using his own waste as soil. He sets himself up well, and because he is such a likeable narrator, the reader accepts all the science. This wonderful read, science fiction at its best, a survival story that defies the imagination will keep everyone reading to the last page. Full of NASA speak, acronyms abound, but we learn a little of the minutiae of the life of an astronaut and marvel at Watney's adaptability.
The book is divided into 26 chapters, most of which are the log written by Watney as he charts his days, telling whoever finds his body exactly what he has done to survive, but hopeful, of course, that he will be rescued. Between these chapters are those set in NASA as one of the technicians notices that tents have moved on Mars' surface. She alerts those in charge and this unleashes a crowd of experts all vying for their voice to be heard. The questions asked within this room are mesmerising: should they tell the press, should they tell his parents, or tell the other five now returning to Earth, all the while having all of their expertise concentrated on finding a way to bring him home. It is a riveting read, we listen to the arguments made by those at NASA, and their attempts at communicating with him, while working with Watney on the planet Mars in his efforts to survive. A stunning science fiction novel in the tradition of the Robinson Crusoe novels, (Robinsonade) where someone is marooned and must survive, this book is a stunner, made into a film in 2015 starring Matt Damon.
I listened to this as an audio book. Themes: STEM, Science fiction, Survival, Robinsonade, Communication.