I read this for the Huntington Beach Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Group, and I grumbled that the last book we read was not very sci-fi and not at all fantasy, so I am very pleased to say that this was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping that this group would introduce me to. This was about as sci-fi as I get. It is about an astronaut! In the future! On Mars!
It is set in an undisclosed time in the future, where humankind is able to send astronauts to Mars, and then bring them back again. Surprisingly, though, the future that Weir can imagine still has a NASA, which still has mission control in Houston, and the astronauts all have very American names, except for a token German. The Chinese do get involved in the story later on, though. And of course the main character is male. So, in this future we can get to Mars and back but not really all that much has changed.
Our hero, Mark, has been left behind on the planet by his crew mates because he thought he was dead (this is not a spoiler). The story is about how he survives alone on a planet with just the equipment they left behind. They should have been there for a week or so but he has to figure out ways to survive for much longer. He adapts more or less everything he has and we learn so much about how astronauts could survive on Mars in the future.
It is currently being made in to a film starring Matt Damon, and I do not much like knowing this sort of thing when I read the book and then “seeing” the actor as the character in my head, but Damon would do OK as the lead in this story. I am really looking forward to seeing how they managed to turn this into a film, because the main character spends so much of it as the only person on the planet, so there is not a great deal of dialogue. Much of the book is our hero’s diary.
I bloody loved this book. In many ways it is not at all my usual thing, but I do like fiction that also teaches me things and this certainly did. It turns out that Weir does not have a career at NASA himself, as I had wondered, he just worked very hard at researching his book. I learned an awful lot of interesting things about Mars from this book, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. A sign of a great book is when you really want to get to the end to see how it turns out, but then you really don’t want to get to the end because then you won’t be reading it anymore.