Saturday, March 18, 2017


As you can probably tell, I enjoy telling the stories behind how I find books.  Some of them will be more ordinary--I'll be reviewing a book I had to read in Mrs. Elliott's Honors American Literature class in 1998--but I do like connecting a book to a place, a time or a person.

In this case, it's San Jose, CA over Memorial Day weekend a couple of years ago.  I was spending five days with my brother's family and as soon as he picked me up from the airport, my brother turned on an audiobook.

There aren't many books that start out with profanity that I would recommend.  The first sentence ends with one in the past tense.  Then you get a bit of context and you realize that you wouldn't be able to be polite in a similar situation.

Mark Watney, a member of the Ares III mission to Mars, was hit by flying debris during the mission evacuation.  His vital signs flat-lined and in spite of his crewmembers' efforts, they were unable to recover the body.  Where it gets complicated is that the first line of the book is from Mark's first log, recorded after he woke up alive and alone on Mars.  He is a botanist and a mechanical engineer who might be able to live long enough for the next mission to Mars to arrive at the Schiaparelli Crater in a while.  That is, if the hazards of the uninhabitable planet don't kill him first.  And the future astronauts don't know he's alive.

The book is phenomenal.  Andy Weir basically posted it on his blog and crowd-researched the plot, the science, etc.  Followers would give him information on complications or how to make things work.

Back on earth, there is a huge public relations issue after America lost an astronaut.  They hope that the next mission will be able to recover his remains and to their horror, they discover that his body doesn't show up on the satellite footage and someone is moving the equipment around and using the solar panels.

While the story is riveting (I actually screamed for joy when something went awesomely right), my favorite moments are things like the US Postal Service having to stop circulating Mark Watney's commemorative stamp because they've never had a stamp for a living person before and the NASA/JPL efforts to help him being called Project Elrond.  (In the movie, Sean Bean of Boromir fame is in on this project.)

So be prepared for a bit of profanity and lots of hatred towards disco music.  But read this book and feel the way you did when you first saw Apollo 13.

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