HANS GOUDEY. Have you ever read a survival story? Hatchet? Adrift? The Life of Pi? Into the Wild? Think of all the survival stories you’ve heard. It’s likely that the only one of them that didn’t happen on Earth was Apollo 13, and that wasn’t even fiction like the others. Survival stories have always been my favorite, but I always wanted a story that was more ‘out there.’ Well, over break I got exactly what I wanted when I discovered The Martian in a local book store. After bringing it home, I finished it in about 24 hours– and I had more than a dozen people staying at my house. Needless to say, I was entranced. The Martian takes place on Mars on a Mars mission, Ares III. It’s around 40 years in the future, and the Ares program is like Apollo for Mars. An intense sandstorm threatens to tip over the escape craft, the MAV, and the astronauts are forced to evacuate. Five of the six crew makes it off of Mars, but Mark Whitney, the main character and a NASA astronaut, gets impaled with a communications antenna flying in the wind. Mark Whitney is left with 12 potatoes, an empty Habitation Module, and rations of food that won’t last nearly long enough. “But I’m a botanist, damn it. I should be able to find a way to make this happen. If I don’t, I’ll be a really hungry botanist in about a year.” Naturally, Mark starts to collect manure, starting the first farm on Mars. The rest of the novel is his efforts– emotional and physical– to get home to Earth. The moment I read the first line of The Martian, “I’m pretty much f***ed,” I could tell that it wouldn’t be like any other survival story I’ve read. First of all, it’s written in the format of a log, so the writing is almost conversational. For the gravity of the situation– a man stranded, alone on an entire planet– there’s a lot of humor. I think anyone interested in a survival story, the future of manned spaceflight, science, spaceflight, or just a very intense story would like The Martian.
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