The Martian by Andy Weir, USA, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir, USA, 2014

This is a fictional account of an astronaut’s fight for survival after being caught up in a powerful dust storm on Mars. The crew of the Ares 3 mission, believing him to be dead and having no other option, is forced to leave Mars without him. Of course he does not die (otherwise there would have been no story), and he spends almost two years as the only living being on Mars, trying to survive against unbelievable odds. Fortunately, Mark Watney is both an engineer and a botanist and he delves deeply into these skills to help him survive.

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He knows that he has four years ahead of him until the next mission reaches Mars, but his food and his oxygen will be finished long before then. Added to his dilemma is the fact that he has no way of communicating with either his crew mates or Earth. Using his ingenuity and what he has to hand: the habitat dwelling and the two rover vehicles, he cultivates potatoes and replenishes his oxygen supplies; he is even able to secure a communication link with NASA.

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Once NASA knows that he is alive, everyone is focused on getting him back to Earth. As can be expected this is not something that proceeds smoothly.
The story is thrilling, well researched, and at times funny. It manages to put the dangers of space travel very much into perspective, while Weir’s descriptions of the planet made me feel that I had actually been there and experienced the craters, the red dust, and the monotonous, harsh landscape. The technical background to the story, together with Watney’s many involved calculations, is at times more than I could follow; however, it is possible to put the technicalities to one side and simply enjoy the story for what it is – a great feat of imagination based on an assumed reality.

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