Reading Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian.’

Written By Heather - February 23, 2014

D&D night

We had our Dungeons and Dragons night, and quite a lot of it was spent asking ‘am I on fire?’ and ‘am I still on fire?’ It’s an unfortunate thing when you try to put out yourself out and end up setting everybody else on fire as you do. Bad form, that.

I didn’t get up early to watch the big hockey game, though my D&D friends did. I got home and sat up reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I started it in the afternoon, and I was about halfway through when I had to leave for the game. It’s such a good book that I actually felt a pang to put it down and have to come back to it. The story – no spoilers – is about a man stranded on Mars after a catastrophic accident. Mark Watney’s crewmates leave him behind, thinking he’s dead.

Remember those old math questions you had in algebra class? Where water is entering a container at a certain rate and leaving at a different rate and you need to figure out when it’ll be empty? Well, that concept is critical to the “Mark Watney doesn’t die” project I’m working on.

I’ve read other reviews that remark on it being a Robinson Crusoe story, and yeah, I see it. But having worked for engineers for almost two years now, I can also say that it’s very much about what an engineer does when things go bad. And the humour is pretty right.

By my reckoning, I’m about 100 kilometers from Pathfinder. Technically, it’s “Carl Sagan Memorial Station.” But with all due respect to Carl, I can call it whatever the hell I want. I’m the King of Mars.

It’s a great little book. There are predictable moments of great success and terrible failure, and the pace keeps you moving pretty steadily through the novel to the end. It ends at just the right point, though I admit I wished there were another seven chapters to give me what happened next. And seven more after that.

Definitely recommended. It reminded me of how I felt when I first read sci-fi when I was a kid: breathlessly, and wondering what would happen next.

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  1. kmkat says:

    That algebra problem reference took me back to one of my least favorite moments in college. Question on a calculus midterm: bathtub is z units by y units at base, sides are at angle of x, water flowing in at rate w and out at rate v. After how many units of time will the surface area of the water be changing at rate u?

    Trick question. It NEVER will be changing at that rate. I think because the water is flowing in slightly more slowly than out. Of course I got it wrong.

  2. Sounds like a great book. I’ve added it to my wishlist. Trying to start a gaming group up here but having no luck. :(

  3. unrealfred says:

    I also heard Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing recommend the book on a podcast I listen to. I’ll have to check it out!

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