Book #50 of 2013: The Martian

Last night I finished my 50th book of 2013. I read a lot, yeah, yeah, yeah, wrote a book about it. Book #50 was awesome. It was The Martian by Andy Weir and it’s a contender for my favorite book of the year.

It’s a Robinson Crusoe type story where an astronaut is abandoned on Mars. But he’s a mechanical engineer and botanist who puts his know-how to work to stay alive and wait for rescue (which will take years). He has to use spare parts, his own excrement and controlled explosions to create water, grow food and keep himself going. It’s an incredible work of seat-of-your-pants engineering, and yes, duct tape plays a role.

The main character, Mark Whatley, has a self-effacing, sarcastic style and records his experience in a journal. We also get glimpses of Mission Control back on Earth trying to sort things out and the crew that abandoned him. Much of the story is Mark figuring out how to do things, like create more water from the chemicals on hand so he can grow food. Just when the explanation starts to get too scientific, he cracks a joke and moves on. I have no idea if all the science know-how would actually work, but it sounds totally believable to a non-scientist like me. Andy Weir did some incredible research. Even if he’s wrong, he does a great job faking it.

While cataloging how much air, water and food he has and thinking through how to grow a garden on the harsh environment of Mars could potentially be boring, it’s not. It’s gripping, has plenty of ups and downs and is funny enough that it’s not at all a story about a loner on Mars trying not to go crazy.

It’s a pretty sci-fi heavy book (uh, Mars, hello!), so I’m not sure what kind of mainstream appeal it would have, but the sci-fi folks are going to love it.

And you better act now to get it. The book was picked up for major publication, which means the digital version is going to disappear soon. Soon as in April 30. You’ve got less than a week to grab the digital version, otherwise you have to wait until the print version comes out in February 2014. As if you need any further prodding, the digital version is only 99 cents right now. That’s an absolute steal. But get it now (even if you won’t read it for months), cuz it’ll be gone April 30.

Yay for awesome books that got their start and attention through self publishing.

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