Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Sunrise will be at 7:38 am, sunrise will be at 5:08 pm.

It's still full dark as I start typing here at a few minutes before 7 am.  The radio says it will be warm today, 45 degrees right now.  That's nice because it has been damp-ish and cold and... I really can't complain, can I?  We don't have snow or floods so...a scarf, some gloves, we're good.  I did have to put socks on when I got out of my very comfortable, very warm bed but I didn't have to wrap up any outward facing metal pieces, the sugar water didn't freeze in the hummingbird feeder, and I won't have to wear a hat today.  I am looking forward to a HOT shower, though.

The big building across the valley from us, the old veteran's hospital, is lit by blue and green lights these days in honor of the Seahawks' participation in this week's Superbowl.  I don't usually follow football but this is pretty exciting stuff for Seattle.  There are big 12s all over town, flags and post-it note art of the Seahawks' logo in windows, skyscrapers with all the lights out except for the ones that write out "12".  For those not aware, 12 stands for the 12th Man on the Field, the fans.  The fans are really noisy, yes, seismically loud, and have been known to throw off the other team because they can't hear their plays. 

I wonder what people on flights into SeaTac think as they fly over the city, see it all lit up in blue and green, with a skyline full of 12s?
Rainier Tower downtown Seattle all lit up for the Superbowl

I love science fiction and February brings us one of my very favorite books this year, The Martian, by Andy WeirThe Martian takes place in the fairly near future as Mars landings and explorations are in their infancy.  Six days after the first Mars landing occurs, a massive storm overtakes the team and they are forced to abort the mission.  But one of the crew is skewered by a pole and can't make it to the lander.  The rest of the crew believes he is dead and are forced to evacuate or they will all perish.

A few hours after the rocket leaves the surface of Mars, Mark Watney wakes up still in his suit.  Air pressure has forced the blood in his helmet to close the cracks, he is completely alone on a planet 6 months space flight from home, has no way to contact anyone, and a sincere desire to stay alive as long as possible.

The Martian is his journal about how he survives on Mars, alone and mostly in the dark and cold.

This is one of the best survival stories I've read recently and I think it would be a really good book for boys 13 and up (good for everyone, really, over 13).  It's packed with science and physics, it's funny (truly spit take funny) and poignant, and once you get started, you are going to want to keep reading until you're done.  It is a wild ride and, yes, it is rocket science.

The author, Andy Weir, was hired as a programmer for a lab at age 15 and has been a software engineer ever since.  There were a few times when the humor seemed a little forced, and my husband (a journalist by trade) was a little put of by the constant cursing by the woman who was controlling the press.  I didn't really notice that part, she was under a lot of pressure, but I did think about the f-word's presence as far as schools and school librarians recommending it to students.  Luckily, I have no problems with it and will be talking about it to EVERYONE.

This is a GREAT book for the Common Core curriculum and for any school that has a STEM program. (Crown.  Available February 2014.  Adult but good for anyone over 13 who likes survival stories.)

PS  My husband, D, can't wait for us to share this with his brother and I can't wait to share it with my nephew.  I sense a small family bookgroup in the making.

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