I was struck speechless by this book.
Mark Watney is stuck on Mars. His crew thinks he is dead. He knows another mission should arrive in about four years.
It’s an equation. X food + Y Oxygen – Z Carbon Dioxide + A Water = B Survival
Solve for all variables.
Inputs to the matrix include available tools and materials, constraints include limited living space, a longer mission time than anything you’re working with was ever designed to function, and a planetary environment that is inimical to your existence.
But Watney doesn’t control the whole equation.
In a time when I genuinely despair for the future, this is a book about the dollar cost of one human life. It’s a story about the entire world bending its will and its resources toward an almost unimaginable goal because we value each other. That there is no dollar cost of a person because to put a price tag on a human being would be immoral and vulgar. It’s idealist, to be sure, but that’s not a criticism. It’s literature reminding us of that how good we imagine ourselves to be should be how good we try to be.
I loved the math in this book, which could be a turn off. If you don’t like super technical details you can gloss over the calculations of how many potatoes can be grown per liter of urine. They are super fun for the data inclined but you won’t lose the thrust of things if you skip them a bit.
The tension ratchets spectacularly several times and my heart was racing at each peak. Even until the last pages I was completely gripped and invested in the entirety of the story. It was almost unbearable, but I needed to know what happened.
This is a nerdy, engaging thriller with a core of inspiration courtesy of both the sciences and the humanities. A+.