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The Martian

I just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. In a word, this was a fantastic book which I would recommend to nearly anyone.

Page one finds our hero, a NASA astronaut named Mark Watney, accidentally left behind on Mars after his mission goes wrong. Unconscious and bleeding, he is the now the only living thing on the entire planet. He can be rescued if he can find a way to survive for two years using 30 days worth of leftover supplies, making his way over 2000 kilometers to the next mission site. Without running out of air. Or food. Or water. Or shelter. And establishing communications somehow. Other than that, he's fine.

The most important thing you need to know about the book is that it is really funny! I was laughing with almost every page, and could not stop reading. The narrative is comprised mostly of written diary entries from Mark, and he handles the impossible odds he faces with liberal gallows humor. I giggled more or less constantly at his funny layman's explanations of all the crazy jury-rigging he does to stay alive.

Despite the high drama, the diary entry format lightens the mood of the book considerably. Since the main character is telling you what happened each day, you know that he must have lived through it or else he wouldn't still be writing diary entries. That alleviates some of the nail-biting tension you might otherwise feel as you read.

Also: having worked with an astronaut I can tell you that the NASA characters seem realistic; they are smart, funny, practical people with a wry outlook on life-threatening situations. If a NASA austronaut ever really were stranded on Mars, this is probably how they would act.

The book's only downside is that the premise that strands Mark in the first place is a touch improbable, but otherwise the science seems very thoroughly researched. It certainly passed my "Wired Magazine" level understanding of physics, chemistry, computers, telecommunications, botany, and orbital mechanics.

Highly recommended!

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