There’s life on Mars. But not the little green man or the Warner Brothers kind. This guy’s name is Mark Watney and NASA sent him as part of a five-person mission, partly because he’s a botanist, partly because he’s a mechanical engineer and partly because he can weather intense situations with humor and cool decisiveness … and MATH. Reading Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, actually made me slightly regret that I didn’t understand the mathematical calculations and scientific wizardry that hero Watney utilized to stay alive after he was left for dead on the Red Planet.
This is a FANTASTIC book. And I have to give a huge shoutout to narrator R.C. Bray who mastered Watney’s humor, NASA’s stress, and every single accent (German, Indian, Chinese, Brooklyn) with skill.
I finished listening to it today and was literally on the edge of my seat during the last twenty minutes. The book was originally self-published, and then purchased by Random House and re-published on February 11, 2014 and I suppose the movie rights were already sold because Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain and a full Milky Way or Hollywood stars have already made a film that will be released on October 2, 2015. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://youtu.be/Ue4PCI0NamI. It looks good, Mr. Damon. Looks good. And I have to say I’m glad your old buddy from Southie is nowhere to be found in the cast list.
Since I listened instead of read the novel, I can’t tell you how great the prose was or how majestic the imagery. Frankly, I doubt that’s what Weir was going for. I can tell you the math was astounding and the plot left me anxious to return to my drive so I could find out how Watney was going to survive the: explosion, deflated habitat, sub-arctic cold, lack of food,
rover crash, sandstorm, explosion, build-up of CO2, loss of communication with earth, explosion . . . you get the idea. Lots of math. AND it’s fascinating. Don’t ask me how because other than one year on the Math Bowl team (which surprised no one more than me), I have no capacity for the subject.
Not only does he use math, he uses botany to transform 12 potatoes, sent by NASA so the original six astronauts of Watney’s mission could have a “real Thanksgiving meal,” into several thousand. He uses chemistry to turn his own urine into rocket fuel. He uses astronomy in the form of a 16th Century Sextant and observations of the Martian moon to establish longitude and latitude. This guy is a walking encyclopedia of stuff I did not learn in school. AND I LOVED IT.
The novel, now transformed into a movie starring none other than Matt Damon, began as a free, serialized story on computer programmer Weir’s own website. He could find neither a literary agent nor a publisher willing to invest in the novel. Not only that, but the Washington Post is giving Weir credit for saving none other than NASA itself. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/achenblog/wp/2015/05/05/andy-weir-and-his-book-the-martian-may-have-saved-nasa-and-the-entire-space-program/
READ this book. And be prepared to spend a couple of days reading. Or listen to it. I’m very glad I did.
We grew up eating “space food”sticks. Remember those? Sort of pre-Power Bar power bars. I found that you can still find these sticks in space museums. If that’s not practical, you can also order Astronaut Ice Cream from amazon. Both of these would be fabulously fun food to serve.
In the same vein, you could serve dehydrated apples or other fruit.
One item you will definitely want to serve is potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes. Do a little Forrest Gump thing. Fry ’em, boil ’em, bake ’em, bake ’em twice, hash brown ’em, etc.
Rocket Man, Elton John
All by Myself, Eric Carmen
Staying Alive, The BeeGees
Space Oddity, David Bowie
Space Cowboy, Steve Miller Band
ABBA: The Album (Released 1975)
The movie has already been cast and though I’d quibble with one or two choices (Kate Mara I’m looking at you — does she look like a Johansson?), overall I like it.