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

One to Watch: After Earth

After Earth is a big-budget ($130 million) science-fiction adventure film starring Will Smith and his son Jayden as a father & son who crash-land on Earth a thousand years after man has abandoned it, and the adventure they have trying to escape the dangerous wild habitat the Earth has become. Smith himself came up with the basic story, and worked with screenwriter Gary Whitta to carry the idea further.  Due for release on May 31, 2013, it is expected to be a blockbuster.

Will Smith, acting as producer, hired director M. Night Shyamalan (Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, Signs) for the film. This was the first time in twenty years that Shyamalan accepted a project based on someone else’s screenplay (the final screenplay was done by Stephen Gaghan). This would also be Shyamalan’s first digital film.

Science-fiction adventure stories come and go, but what makes After Earth a [Cover]unique film is the backstory. Normally, a film is scripted, filmed, and then if it is successful, writers are hired to create backstory, a “Bible” from which movie tie-ins, novels, short stories, and future scripts can draw material to make a unified vision of that world.  After Earth is the first film to flesh out its backstory before the scripting was even finished. Three expert writers were hired for that task: Peter David, Robert Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman, all of whom were well-versed in writing not only successful science-fiction and comics, but media tie-ins as well. All three collaborated in creating the “universe” in which the story takes place, the what, why, where, when and how, working on set with Smith, Shyamalan, and the scriptwriters to make the story as cohesive and believable as possible.

As told to me by Bob Greenberger, the three authors worked from the original Whitta script, taking tiny open references and creating minute details that would answer any questions the production team might have as to what cataclysms sent man from Earth, why Nova Prime, and what happened in the intervening years. Over a period of two years, this background encyclopedia grew to more than four hundred pages! If you’ve seen anything about the film in print, on the internet, or in film references, you can pretty much guarantee that information came from their work.

Of course, such detail and planning spawns stories on its own. Several novels centering around the movie are poised for release: After Earth, the novelization of the[Cover] film by Peter David, The Perfect Beast (After Earth: Ghost Stories) by Peter David, Robert Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman, and After Earth: United Ranger Corps Survival Manual by Robert Greenberger, as well as several short e-stories available for Kindle Purchase, with more to come in the ensuing months.

With a top-notch cast and writing crew like that, how can After Earth be anything but a hit? Check out these other books by these great authors, (or meet them in person at the Shoreleave Science Fiction Convention in Baltimore this August).

[Cover]   All Good Things...  [Cover]