The Martian is Coming!

martiAll I can say is

WOW.

I have not read a book this gripping in ages. Oh, sure, I adore the Retribution Falls series by Chris Wooding, they are delightful and make my heart sing, but in The Martian, Andy Weir has managed to catch me in my weakest spot, a tale that feeds both my need for a good imagine-if story and lovingly nerdy details that set my non-fiction scientific brain on fire. I got to the end, and I wanted to read it all over again.

Very rarely do I seek a book out. They just happen to come to me in weird ways and tickle my interest enough that I open the cover (and covers are so VERY important. If it wasn’t for the fantastic artwork on the original Dragonlance books, I never would have entered a world that kept me trapped for more than ten years and ultimately sent to me to Lord of the Rings, which, really, is the Great-Granddaddy of the genre anyway). This time, I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie version of The Martian (release date: October 2, 2015), and was intrigued enough that when the book passed through my hands, I grabbed it.

Mark Watney is a crewman on the third manned mission to Mars. When a dust storm hits the crew on their way back to the lander, a piece of equipment snaps off and skewers his spacesuit, sending him reeling down a dune. His crew searches, but can’t locate him in the storm. His vital signs aren’t registering, and they all saw him toothpicked by that antenna. At the last possible second, they admit to themselves he’s dead and blast off to the mother ship while they can.

Only one problem.

He’s not dead.MV5BMTcwMjI2NzM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDkyNTI5NTE@._V1_SX214_AL_

The story revolves around Watney’s ability to survive the impossible, figuring things out as he goes, making everything out of the most basic substances, James T. Kirk channeling MacGyver. Because the supplies left behind were meant for six and he’s only one, he’s able to piece things along using his own ingenuity until NASA realizes he’s still alive. They try and mount a rescue mission, but NASA being NASA and twisted up in bureaucracy and safety margins, not everything is going to go by plan. The chances of Watney making it or not remain 50-50 right up until the final pages. This is a book that will make you sneak off every possible second to read just one more paragraph. From the first page, it will grab you and never let you go. By the end, you’re going to be looking around your house to see if you, too, have anything that can free oxygen or create water, and you will never look at potatoes the same way.

Knowing that in the film Matt Damon has the lead role of Watney makes you read the story in his voice. He is a brilliant piece of casting; the book seems written for him and he will be utterly convincing in the role. Check out the trailer here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue4PCI0NamI . Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise) is directing, and he is certainly adept at handling suspense. I’m waiting to see what they do with the soundtrack, since it’s a running joke through the book that the only music that was left behind is disco (can you imagine being stuck somewhere for months or years with nothing but a few tracks of disco to listen to? I love the Saturday Night Fever album, and I do love ABBA, but not for weeks on end!).

You don’t have to know science to enjoy the book. You don’t even have to know your Phobos from your Deimos. You just have to love a good pressure-cooker story. Don’t let this one skip your orbit.

Andy Weir, I love you.

Mars surface close to equator

Mars surface close to equator

If You Liked The Book, Unbroken…

unbroken If you enjoyed reading the book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, here’s a selection of read-alike books that you might also enjoy.

strengthStrength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder – Presents the story of Burundi civil war survivor Deo, who endures homelessness before pursuing an education at Columbia and eventually returning to his native land to help people in both countries.born

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Recounts the author’s experiences with the reclusive Tarahumara Indians, whose techniques allow them to run long distances with ease, and describes his training for a fifty-mile race with the tribe and a number of ultra-marathoners.

survivorThe Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood – Draws on inspirational stories about survivors of accidents, crime, and serious illness to investigate why some people succumb to life-threatening hardships while others rally, in a report that includes coverage of the higher survival rates of right-handed people, the science of luck, and emergency room probability rates.broken

Broken Jewel by David Robbins –  Presents a tale of war, love, and survival set against the backdrop of the U.S. 11th Airborne’s raid on the Japanese-run Los Baänos prison in the Philippines–one of the most daring episodes of World War II.

ghostGhost Soldiers by Hampton Sides –  Chronicles the daring mission of the elite U.S. Army Sixth Ranger Battalion to slip behind enemy lines in the Philippines and rescue the 513 American and British POWs who had spent over three years in a hellish, Japanese-run camp near Cabanatuan.kra

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester –  Considers the global impact of the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, documenting its cause of an immense tsunami that killed 40,000 people, its impact on the weather for several years, and its role in anti-Western Islamic fundamentalism.

lostLost In Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff –  Describes the 1945 odyssey of three plane crash survivors in New Guinea who endured a harrowing journey through the jungle to seek help, their encounter with a primitive tribe who had never seen white people, and their eventual rescue by a band of paratroopers.ordinary

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow – Stewart Dubinsky plunges into the mystery of his family’s secret history when he discovers his deceased father’s wartime letters to his former fiancâee, revealing his court-martial and imprisonment during World World II.

caineThe Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk – Developments on board an American naval destroyer during World War II compel the crew members to relieve the captain of his command.

pacific

Pacific Glory by P.T. Deutermann – A thrilling, multi-layered World War II adventure following two men and an unforgettable woman, from Pearl Harbor through the most dramatic air and sea battles of the war.

 

Also, see our display on one of the end caps in our lobby.

 

 

 

The “I Survived” Series and Related Book Suggestions

Is historical fiction or survival fiction something that intrigues you or your child? Then you have probably heard of the I Survived series of children’s chapter books by Lauren Tarshis:

This series consists of historical fiction that is plot driven and faced paced. It grabs the attention of most willing readers with stories about courage and survival. According to Scholastic the books are best suited to those reading and a second grade reading level and up, with Lexile ratings around 600 and higher. For more information on the I Survived series check out the Scholastic’s webpage dedicated to the series. The series includes:

1. The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912
2. The Shark Attacks of 1916
3. Hurricane Katrina, 2005
4. The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941
5. The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
6. The Attacks of September 11, 2001
7. The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863
8. The Japanese Tsunami, 2011
9. I Survived the Nazi Invasion,1944 will be released in late February but you can place a hold on it now!

If you have read all of the books currently available in this series or are looking for more books about courage, hope, and survival for children then I would recommend also checking out: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko and its two sequels, Pirate Hannah Pritchard: Pirate of the Revolution! by Bonnie Pryor and its sequels, Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Laurie Calkhoven and the entire Boys of War series, Survival in the Storm: the Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards by Katelan Janke (part of the Dear America series), The Winter of Red Snow: the Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart by Kristiana Gregory (part of the Dear America series), Rex Zero by Tim Wynne-Jones and its sequels, The Journal of Jesse Smoke: a Cherokee Boy by Joseph Bruchac (part of the My Name is America series), Sophia’s War: a Tale of the Revolution by Avi, and Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo.

I know that I have barely touched the surface of historical fiction that deals with children facing times of war, environmental catastrophe, and other situations with include a struggle to survive. Do you have a favorite, series or stand alone, that you would recommend?