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The Martian provides alien experience for readers

Franklin Mejia, Staff Writer

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I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a character as much as I did for Mark Watney. I’m sure I’ve never been so enthralled by the mathematics of potato yields and calorie benefits. And, I have rarely held my breathe for the last quarter of a book as I did with Andy Weir’s The Martian.

As part of a six man team mission to Mars, a freak accident sees Mark Watney presumed dead during a storm that forces his team to abandon the planet and escape into orbit. Watney is not dead (though things continue to conspire to kill him throughout) but he is now alone and stranded on Mars with no radio or communications. He does have the means to survive for quite some time, though not enough to await the arrival of the next mission team.

Watney goes through some remarkable feats, using his ingenuity and skills to “Heath Robinson” a number of solutions against seemingly insurmountable odds. Clearly, as an astronaut, he is a clever character but his sense of humour and ability to stay focused is wonderful. Just as clearly, the author Andy Weir is brilliant in his ability to make weird math and technical material as gripping as he does. Interspersed with chapters that focus on NASA trying to work a rescue, Watney’s log updates pack humour, humanity and the drive to survive into bite sized chunks.

Spending a year and a half stranded on a planet that is trying to kill him, Watney’s story is life affirming. It speaks of the best of humankind; the universal and political free nature of scientific endeavour. Weir’s writing is smart and clear, never losing the reader in amongst all the hard science. The story is a serious page turner and the protagonist is so likeable it’s ridiculous. The Martian is a thriller in every sense of the word; an intriguing, mind boggling, math driven, Mars bound tale of survival.

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