While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, waiting as patiently as I could while a previous customer argued over coupon redemption and dug around for and counted out exact change, this book caught my eye. I don’t have a lot of experience with the sci fi genre but it was either that or some tabloid with one Kardashian or other on the cover. I picked it up, glanced at the cover, perused the enthusiastic blurbs and read the first few pages, suddenly not so worried how long this episode in line was going to last.
Mark Watney is one of the crew of Ares 3 on Mars, when a sudden storm overtakes them on the surface as they go about their duties. Mark is hit with an antenna, piercing his suit and knocking him unconscious. As far as his crew knows, he is dead since his compromised suit reports no vital signs and loss of oxygen. Mission control aborts the mission, ordering the crew back to their ship in orbit immediately. Commander Lewis must make a choice. Is there time to try to find him in this storm, alive or dead? Can you further risk the lives of the remaining crew? No. The crew returns to the Hermes. But wait, Mark wakes up, his suit has sealed itself up and he has some life support. He knows he must get to the Hab unit, sew himself up and figure out what to do next. Remember that antenna sticking out of his leg? Well that would be his link to the Hermes and mission control. He is alive but no one in the universe knows it. There will be no rescue, he is sure to die there.
But he is one remarkably resourceful bastard. A mechanical engineer and botanist, he sets about growing crops, fixing and retrofitting equipment and previous rovers and other space mission detritus in a battle not only of survival but hope for rescue. I could not put this book down. Mark was excellent company, but it doesn’t end there. When he is able to get some kind of message out that he is alive, action switches to back on earth and later on the Hermes.
An afterword explained how this story and book came to be, also outlining how accurate the science is. I have no way of knowing how true this is, but as someone with little to no knowledge on the subjects, I found that it didn’t bog the story down for me at all. Marks story and the efforts of all who tried to bring him back kept me feverishly turning pages late into the night.