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The Martian: A Novel
by Andy Weir

Published: 2014-02-11
Hardcover : 384 pages
38 members reading this now
188 clubs reading this now
32 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no ...
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Introduction

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Editorial Review

8 Tips for Surviving on Mars from Andy Weir

So you want to live on Mars. Perhaps itâ??s the rugged terrain, beautiful scenery, or vast natural landscape that appeals to you. Or maybe youâ??re just a lunatic who wants to survive in a lifeless barren wasteland. Whatever your reasons, there are a few things you should know:

1: Youâ??re going to need a pressure vessel.

Marsâ??s atmospheric pressure is less than one percent of Earthâ??s. So basically, itâ??s nothing. Being on the surface of Mars is almost the same as being in deep space. You better bring a nice, sturdy container to hold air in. By the way, this will be your home forever. So try to make it as big as you can.

2: Youâ??re going to need oxygen.

You probably plan to breathe during your stay, so youâ??ll need to have something in that pressure vessel. Fortunately, you can get this from Mars itself. The atmosphere is very thin, but it is present and itâ??s almost entirely carbon dioxide. There are lots of ways to strip the carbon off carbon dioxide and liberate the oxygen. You could have complex mechanical oxygenators or you could just grow some plants.

3: Youâ??re going to need radiation shielding.

Earthâ??s liquid core gives it a magnetic field that protects us from most of the nasty crap the sun pukes out at us. Mars has no such luxury. All kinds of solar radiation gets to the surface. Unless youâ??re a fan of cancer, youâ??re going to want your accommodations to be radiation-shielded. The easiest way to do that is to bury your base in Martian sand and rocks. Theyâ??re not exactly in short supply, so you can just make the pile deeper and deeper until itâ??s blocking enough.

4: Youâ??re going to need water.

Again, Mars provides. The Curiosity probe recently discovered that Martian soil has quite a lot of ice in it. About 35 liters per cubic meter. All you need to do is scoop it up, heat it, and strain out the water. Once you have a good supply, a simple distillery will allow you to reuse it over and over.

5: Youâ??re going to need food.

Just eat Martians. They taste like chicken.

6: Oh, come on.

All right, all right. Food is the one thing you need that canâ??t be found in abundance on Mars. Youâ??ll have to grow it yourself. But youâ??re in luck, because Mars is actually a decent place for a greenhouse. The day/night cycle is almost identical to Earthâ??s, which Earth plants evolved to optimize for. And the total solar energy hitting the surface is enough for their needs.

But you canâ??t just grow plants on the freezing, near-vacuum surface. Youâ??ll need a pressure container for them as well. And that one might have to be pretty big. Just think of how much food you eat in a year and imagine how much space it takes to grow it.

Hope you like potatoes. Theyâ??re the best calorie yield per land area.

7: Youâ??re going to need energy.

However you set things up, it wonâ??t be a self-contained system. Among other things, youâ??ll need to deal with heating your home and greenhouse. Marsâ??s average daily temperature is -50C (-58F), so itâ??ll be a continual energy drain to keep warm. Not to mention the other life support systems, most notably your oxygenator. And if youâ??re thinking your greenhouse will keep the atmosphere in balance, think again. A biosphere is far too risky on this scale.

8: Youâ??re going to need a reason to be there.

Why go out of your way to risk your life? Do you want to study the planet itself? Start your own civilization? Exploit local resources for profit? Make a base with a big death ray so you can address the UN while wearing an ominous mask and demand ransom? Whatever your goal is, you better have it pretty well defined, and you better really mean it. Because in the end, Mars is a harsh, dangerous place and if something goes wrong youâ??ll have no hope of rescue. Whatever your reason is, it better be worth it.

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. How did The Martian challenge your expectations of what the novel would be? What did you find most surprising about it?

2. What makes us root for a character to live in a survival story? In what ways do you identify with Mark? How does the author get you to care about him?

3. Do you believe the crew did the right thing in abandoning the search for Mark? Was there an alternative choice?

4. Did you find the science and technology behind Mark’s problem-solving accessible? How did that information add to the realism of the story?

5. What are some of the ways the author established his credibility with scientific detail? Which of Mark’s solutions did you find most amazing and yet believable?

6. What is your visual picture of the surface of Mars, based on the descriptions in the book? Have you seen photographs of the planet?

7. Who knew potatoes, duct tape, and seventies reruns were the key to space survival? How does each of these items represent aspects of Mark’s character that help him survive?

8. How is Mark’s sense of humor as much a survival skill as his knowledge of botany? Do you have a favorite funny line of his?

9. To what extent does Mark’s log serve as his companion? Do you think it’s implicit in the narrative that maintaining a log keeps him sane?

10. The author provides almost no back story regarding Mark’s life on Earth. Why do you think he made this choice? What do you imagine Mark’s past life was like?

11. There’s no mention of Mark having a romantic relationship on Earth. Do you think that makes it easier or harder to endure his isolation? How would the story be different if he was in love with someone back home?

12. Were there points in the novel when you became convinced Mark couldn’t survive? What were they, and what made those situations seem so dire?

13. The first time the narrative switched from Mark’s log entries to third-person authorial narrative back on Earth, were you surprised? How does alternating between Mark’s point of view and the situation on Earth enhance the story?

14. Did you believe the commitment of those on Earth to rescuing one astronaut? What convinced you most?

15. To what extent do you think guilt played a part in the crew’s choice to go back to Mark? To what extent loyalty? How would you explain the difference?

16. How does the author handle the passage of time in the book? Did he transition smoothly from a day-to-day account to a span of one and a half years? How does he use the passage of time to build suspense?

17. Unlike other castaways, Mark can approximately predict the timing of his potential rescue. How does that knowledge help him? How could it work against him?

18. When Mark leaves the Hab and ventures out in the rover, did you feel a loss of security for him? In addition to time, the author uses distance to build suspense. Discuss how.

19. Where would you place The Martian in the canon of classic space exploration films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13, and Gravity? What does it have in common with these stories? How is it different?

20. A survival story has to resonate on a universal level to be effective, whether it’s set on a desert island or another planet. How important are challenges in keeping life vital? To what extent are our everyday lives about problem-solving and maintaining hope?

Suggested by Members

How do you feel Mark stayed so optimistic throughout the book?
What kept Mark entertained and busy over such a long time?
How was Mark finally able to communicate with the outside world?
by srpowen (see profile) 10/22/16

do you believe this could actually happen
if you were stranded on Mars what three tnings would you want with you and what one book
should we continue manned space missions
by Corgi819 (see profile) 02/03/15

How did THE MARTIAN challenge your expectations of what the novel would be? What did you find most surprising about it.
What makes us root for a character to live in a survival story? In what ways do you identify with Mark? How does the author get you to care about him?
Did you find the science and technology behind Mark's problem-solving accessible? How did that information add to the realism of the story?
by BookDivasReads (see profile) 01/08/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by desiree67 (see profile) 08/25/19

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 05/29/19

Absolutely hilarious. Not just that, I loved the actual science used in it even if it was a bit much every now and then. Mark Watney is a great protagonist in my opinion, and considering the fact that... (read more)

 
by KarenC (see profile) 05/18/19

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