You may remember that Andy Weir's debut novel, The Martian, was on my "Meg's Picks" list last month. So you'd better believe there was some serious excitement when it came across my desk last week. Cue a long weekend, and I was in heaven. This is one that I absolutely cannot, will not, keep to myself.
It is Sol 6 of the Ares 3 mission on Mars, the third manned space mission to the Red Planet. Mark Watney, the crew's mechanical engineer and botanist, is helping crewmates scramble to scrub the mission in the face of a giant dust-storm with hurricane-force winds. And then just as suddenly, he's hit by flying debris and lost in the cloud of red dust. His crewmates can no longer see him, and they get no response from Watney, neither from his suit monitors or by radio. The crew's commander is forced to leave him behind, for dead, in order to save the remaining members.
Watney, however, is not dead. However, his suit's computer is fried and he's been wounded. When he regains consciousness, it's to a horrible realization that he's stranded alone on Mars with no hopes to communicate with Earth or with his departing crew. The next manned mission, Ares 4, is not scheduled to arrive for more nearly three years. But he'll starve long before then.
His first order of business: survival. Everything after that is merely details.
This novel is packed with so much suspense, I absolutely couldn't put it down. It's been awhile since I've been able to say that about a book. I read it in two days and have been unable to get the story of Mark Watney out of my head since then. It's like MacGyver meets Apollo 13, and you will root for Watney every step of the way.
Please note, I consider myself a nerd, but I'm a book nerd. Not a math, science, space, or science fiction brand of nerd. This is an instance where none of that matters--I would recommend this more to fans of suspense and adventure novels than perhaps to science fiction fans. Technically, it is sci-fi. But the reading of it is like the best of suspense novels.
Very highly recommended.