What Ricky’s Reading

The Martian

by Andy Weir

Man versus the elements – we are enamored by those stories. Humans have proven, in both fact and fiction, that we are survivors. We can make fire, build shelter, and hunt or grow our own food. But what happens when someone has to survive away from the comforts of this miraculous planet we call Earth? The Martian by Andy Weir takes us where no man has gone before.

Mark Watney and a crew of astronauts become the first humans to walk on Mars, but a tragic accident leaves Mark unconscious. “Mark is dead,” the crew decides as they evacuate the Red Planet. Now Mark Watney finds himself pitted against nature, but this is not one of the survival stories we have read all of our lives. This planet is not meant for habitation. For one thing, there is no oxygen here!

As Mark awakens, he realizes he has been left on Mars, and no one is coming back for a long time. Armed with his skills as a botanist and an engineer, and whatever he can salvage from the gear left on Mars by NASA, he sets to work on each problem as it comes along.

What is he going to eat? He is a botanist, so it shouldn’t be that hard to grow potatoes. How can he water the potatoes? He will just burn a highly flammable liquid called hydrazine to produce water. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, living on Mars is no cakewalk, and Mark encounters plenty of life-threatening problems as he awaits rescue.

After looking at satellite photography of the mission site, someone at NASA realizes that Mark Watney is in fact not dead, but very much alive. Now it is a race to decide how long Mark Watney can survive on Mars, and if, against all odds, someone can come up with a plan to rescue him before he runs out of vital things like food, water, and oxygen.

My thoughts: I was glued to my seat reading this book. Of course, I did not understand the science behind all of this, but it was intriguing reading about a sole astronaut trying to survive on Mars when he had to make his own food, water, and oxygen. Mark is sharp-witted and hilarious, so his conversations, both with himself and later NASA, made me laugh out loud. Does Mark Watney survive the ultimate test of Man versus the Elements? You will have to read this one for yourself to find out.

This will be the selection for our adult summer reading program this year. Program registration begins Thursday, May 30, and the program begins in June. We have multiple copies, and you don’t want to miss this book club discussion. Get your copy at the library on or after May 30, and check out many of the other programs we have for children, teens, and adults during Oneonta Public Library’s summer reading program “A Universe of Stories.”

Ricky Statham is director at Oneonta Public Library. Visit the library Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to check out this or another great book.