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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

Broadway Books, 387 pages, $15 (2011, first printing 2014)

“The Martian” began life as a free download in 2011. Then it became a 99-cent download on Amazon. (More people bought it than downloaded it for free.) Then it found a print publisher and a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list. Finally, the movie made from this book, starring Matt Damon, is scheduled for release in October. Well, imagine that! And that is the attraction of this book: Andy Weir’s imagination and his based-in-reality science.

Astronaut Mark Watney’s crew thought he was dead when they blasted off from Mars and headed back to Earth. Watney was not, however, dead. “Hey, guys, wait for me” fell on ears too far away to hear. With potatoes and disco music for companions (beggars cannot be choosers), Watney must solve one survival problem after another. Yes, Mars is trying to kill him (by being inhospitable), which makes this a trying-to-murder-someone mystery.

Mostly told in first-person by Watney, his sense of humor, his ingenuity, and his optimism carry the book. As one rescue scenario after another hits snags, the potential for heartbreak is huge. But Watney’s efforts and will to live can be applauded no matter the outcome. He exemplifies the best in human nature and resourcefulness.

Although this is Weir’s first published book, he has the mechanics of suspense down tight. He takes his readers on a roller coaster ride with what looks like impeccable scientific knowledge. (But how would we know for certain unless we were orbital/astrodynamic geeks ourselves?)

I wish I could legitimately issue an MBTB star, but I can’t. There’s no crime, even if there is suspense as big as Jupiter.

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