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The Martian
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Previous Monthly Reads > May Monthly Read 2014: The Martian

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is the discussion thread for our May monthly read of 2014, The Martian by Andy Weir.

I look forward to discussing this book with you all and reading you thoughts and opinions.

Declan. :)

Paul To start heres a Q&A with the author about the book
Q & A

A Conversation With Space-Geek and Science Fanatic Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN
(Crown, February 11, 2014)

Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a science geek.  You list space travel, orbital dynamics, relativistic physics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight among your interests. How did you incorporate these passions into your debut novel THE MARTIAN?
A) Those interests made me come up with the story in the first place. I love reading up on current space research. At some point I came up with the idea of an astronaut stranded on Mars. The more I worked on it, the more I realized I had accidentally spent my life researching for this story. Early on, I decided that I would be as scientifically accurate as possible. To a nerd like me, working out all the math and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions was fun.

Q) In one sentence, tell us what your novel is all about.
A) It’s the story of an astronaut trying to survive after being accidentally left behind on Mars.

Q) Explain how the science in THE MARTIAN is true to life.
A) The basic structure of the Mars program in the book is very similar to a plan called “Mars Direct” (though I made changes here and there). It’s the most likely way that we will have our first Mars mission in real life. All the facts about Mars are accurate, as well as the physics of space travel the story presents. I even calculated the various orbital paths involved in the story, which required me to write my own software to track constant-thrust trajectories.

Q) What inspired you to write THE MARTIAN?
A) I was thinking up how best to do a manned Mars mission (because that’s the sort of dork I am). As the plan got more detailed, I started imagining what it would be like for the astronauts. Naturally, when designing a mission, you think up disaster scenarios and how likely the crew would be to survive. That’s when I started to realize this had real story potential.

Q) Are you an advocate for a manned mission to Mars? Are you hopeful we’ll actually make it out there sometime soon?
A) Of course I’m a huge fan of space travel, manned and unmanned. I would love to see people land on Mars in my lifetime. However, do I think it will actually happen? I’m not sure. Unlike the 1960’s, we’re not in a race with anyone to get there, so it’s not a priority. Also, computer and robotics technologies are leaps and bounds better than they were during the days of Apollo. So logically, you have to ask why we would risk human lives rather than just make better robots. Still, it would be awesome, and maybe that’s reason enough.

Q) Do you have anything in common with your wise-cracking hero Mark Watney?
A) I’m the same level of smart-ass as he is. It was a really easy book to write; I just had him say what I would say. However, he’s smarter than I am and considerably more brave. I guess he’s what I wish I was.

Q) In THE MARTIAN, Watney has access to his crewmates digital entertainment on Mars, including TV episodes of Three’s Company, a variety of Beatles songs, and digital books including The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Any reason you chose to work those specific examples into the novel?
A) It’s a selection of things I loved when I was growing up.

Q) You’re stranded on Mars and you can only take one book with you.  What is it?
A) It’s always hard to pick one “favorite book”. Growing up, I loved early Heinlein books most of all. So if I had to pick one, I’d go with “Tunnel in the Sky”. I do love a good survival story.

Q) How long do you think you’d last if you were left in Mark Watney’s position?
A) Not long at all. I don’t know how to grow crops, nor how to jury-rig the solutions he came up with. It’s a lot easier to write about an ordeal than it is to experience it.

Q) You have the chance to meet any astronaut living or dead- who is it and why?
A) John Young. He is the quintessential astronaut. Competent, fearless, highly intelligent, and seemingly immune to stress. When Apollo 16 launched, his heart rate never got higher than 70. Most astronauts spike to at least 120 during launches.

Q) Watney seems to be able to maneuver his way around some pretty major problems with a little duct tape and ingenuity! So he’s a bit like MacGyver in that way. Did you watch the show as a kid? Any favorite episodes?
A) Indeed I did! I loved that show. My favorite episode was the one where engineering students had a barricade contest.

Q) Star Wars or Star Trek?
A) Doctor Who

Q) Your idea of the perfect day...
A) Sleep in. Meet Buzz Aldrin for brunch. Head over to JPL and watch them control the Curiosity Mars rover. Dinner with the writing staff of Doctor Who.

Q) How did you feel when your original, self-published version of THE MARTIAN became a phenomenon online? Were you expecting the overwhelmingly positive reception the book received?
A) I had no idea it was going to do so well. The story had been available for free on my website for months and I assumed anyone who wanted to read it had already read it. A few readers had requested I post a Kindle version because it’s easier to download that way. So I went ahead and did it, setting the price to the minimum Amazon would allow. As it sold more and more copies I just watched in awe.

Q) Film rights to THE MARTIAN were sold to writer-producer Simon Kinberg (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: First Class). What was your first reaction? Who should play the part of Mark Watney?
A) Of course I’m thrilled to have a movie in the works. The movie deal and print publishing deal came within a week of each other, so I was a little shell-shocked. In fact, it was such a sudden launch in to the big leagues that I literally had a difficult time believing it. I actually worried it could all be an elaborate scam. So I guess that was my first reaction: “Is this really happening!?”
As for who could play Watney, I think some good candidates would be Aaron Paul and Chris Evans.

Q) What’s next for you?
A) I have a few irons in the fire. There’s a long running sci-fi story I’ve been poking at here and there for a while. Though based on the response from The Martian, I might go with a different story idea I have in mind: a “science-crime” novel. Lots of problem-solving as technically savvy criminals match wits with an equally savvy FBI agent trying to track them down.

message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments Science Fiction is really out of my comfort zone but that's what book clubs are for. Who knows? Maybe I will learn to like science fiction.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Doctor Who over Star Trek and Star Wars. This had better be a good book!

@Susan. You might like it as a Survival story.

Paul Susan I heard about this book because if another book I loved Wool by Hugh Howey
and that book is one of those SciFi that anyone could enjoy and this book is supposed to be similar. This is described as MacGuyver in space. Who couldnt love that. Im hoping this is a good gateway book for those unused to sci-fi just like Wool.

Paul True geeks think its cool to prefer Dr Who these days. I never got it to be honest

Paul I went to a Star Wars convention once but it was before the Phantom menace and Jar Jar Binks ruined it all

Serf I've watched all three and have to say dr who is my least favourite

Serf Wow, I went and had a look. There's been 12 different dr who's!

Trelawn @ Jamie Lynn, like you, I loved Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. I didn't watch it before and haven't watched it since.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Daleks, Daleks and more Daleks.

"Doctor Who: guardian of Earth, responsible for wiping the Daleks FOREVER from the Galaxy on at least 12 different occasions!!!"

"Ooh, look!... Daleks!"

message 12: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara | 2357 comments Mod
I've decided to read both Brooklyn and The Martian as audiobooks. I've spent my Audible credit on The Martian,so I'll probably start that one first.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Do you mind if I ask how expensive The Martian was, Sara? I'm just curious seeing as it used to freely available.

message 14: by Susan (last edited Apr 29, 2014 08:24PM) (new)

Susan | 4707 comments I didn't realize The Martian just came out in Feb. I am #86 on the list at the library which means I may not get it this month. As it's a brand new book there are no inexpensive used book copies. I hate to spend the money on a book I may not care for. A dilemma.

I know I am a broken record but it's hard on some of us when the choices are brand new books. It's hard to get them in the library and there aren't used copies readily available. If we could keep that in mind, it would be helpful. :)

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

@ Jamielynn. He always reminded me of C3PO. But I suppose he/it had no eyes to admire.

@Susan. Do you have an ereader?

message 16: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I saw the Martian for €10 Euro in chapters for any Dublin readers.

message 17: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Flanagan (emma89) @Declan I got it on Kindle for about £4

message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments I do have a Kindle, Declan. It's $10 on Kindle and $15 in hardback. I guess my hesitancy is because I am so hesitant on the book. Still if you don't have new challenges, you won't grow. Our in person book club read a Margaret Atwood dystopian novel which I thought I would hate and I ended up liking it very much.

For my in person book club I am reading a book that leaves me cold. It's two girls living by themselves in the Redwood Forest when the U.S. collapses. There's no gas, electricity, water etc. One of the girls dances ballet in her head as there's no record player. I find it very strange. Sigh.

message 19: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I had a look around and $15 seems to be as cheap as it gets. My copy cost about $25 so your getting a bargain ;-) Although mine is signed and a limited edition.
I think because its so popular the price just hasn't dropped much since release.
Whats the book leaving you cold called.

I-like-to-read (akakate) Not really my type of book, but have ordered it from Amazon only £5 for the hardback, bargin!!!

I'm with Susan on Si-fi being out of my comfort zone, but hopefully this will help me to like this genre.

message 21: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Some of the best books I've read are Sci Fi and think it can be a very fulfilling genre.
Frankenstein is one of my all time favourites and should be read by everyone
The Man in the High Castle by Dick is a masterpiece not to mention all the classic by Vernes and Welles.

message 22: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara | 2357 comments Mod
Susan was the Margaret Atwood you read "The Handmaid's Tale?" That's a good one.

message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments Sara, it was The Year of the Flood. I was so surprised that I liked it but not enough to read more. I am just happy reading mysteries or historical fiction. They are still my first choice.

message 24: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara | 2357 comments Mod
Susan, The Handmaid's Tale is a classic. I think it should be read by most people...not just fans of science fiction.

message 25: by Serf (new) - rated it 3 stars

Serf My copy arrived today. £5 from amazon. Looking forward to starting this once I finish the omen. I'm not a sci fan person either but I like to dip my toe into different genres so I don't get bored.

message 26: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I started today and after 5 chapters i think I'm hooked. I wrote the following for my GR progress-

Really enjoying the style so far. The entry log narrative works very well and Mark Watney is a likeable protagonist. The technical stuff isn't over the top and is well explained so really enjoying the start. Love the references and rants about TV and music.

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Star Wars is mostly an adventure story, and Star Trek (ToS and most other series) were moral tales. It's easy to see why most people have a clear favourite. But give me Wookies and Light Sabers any day.

message 28: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I wasn't even born when Star Wars came out but I do know that the first words I learned to read were Return of the Jedi. That's hardcore Nerdiness. Yoda would be proud

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Love Yoda, who doesn't?

Proud, Yoda would be!

message 30: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I've just been out nerded by Declan.

message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I do make an effort.

message 32: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Maxwell (markjmaxwell) | 19 comments Great choice this month! I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of the book, especially the non-sci-fi readers.

Coincidentally, it's also the monthly choice for the Sword and Laser sci-fi group which I'm a member of. I guess I'm going to have to come up with my own reading ideas this month :).

message 33: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments Declan, I just wanted you to notice that Paul liked the first Star Trek. How could you not laugh at the Trebbles? Or when Kirk picks up a large, obviously fake, boulder and throws it? Could Picard have done that?

message 34: by [deleted user] (last edited May 01, 2014 02:42PM) (new)

@Mark. It also gives you more time to go outside into the real world.

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

@Susan. Is this the rock you're talkin about?

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

And I'll very probably post it again. ;)

message 37: by H (new) - added it

H (hiisdaarkmaaterials) | 430 comments Mod
Soooo late to this but I agree Susan. It's €8.99 on iTunes and €11 on the book depository (hardback) I'll either love it or hate it and not sure if I want to commit just yet! I dislike sci fi in general but I want to get into it and am wondering if this will be the book for me!

message 38: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments Declan, LMAO. No, not that rock but that's too funny. The one I'm thinking of was supposed to be a big boulder and it was so obvious that it was fake. That's what happens when you have a husband and three boys and one TV. I've seen the episodes way too many times.

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Susan, I think that was the famous Gorn fight. In Big Bang Theory they drove pass the site of that episode. I'd love to see it.

message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments I had forgotten that and never noticed in Big Bang. That's why I like you.

message 41: by H (new) - added it

H (hiisdaarkmaaterials) | 430 comments Mod
I'm not a fan of ST or SW and I LOATHE TBBT. Yet my three year old will watch Star Wars films back to back and grainy episode after grainy episode of Star Trek. Taste is clearly not a genetic pass along :D

message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Is you're three-year-old a boy, Heather? If so it might be genetic and passed along the y-chromosome.

I think that's a long-winded way if saying mostly boys warm to them. At least ST and SW.

message 43: by H (new) - added it

H (hiisdaarkmaaterials) | 430 comments Mod
He is indeed. But his father also doesn't like sci-fi. He's a mystery to us. I try to interest him in Tolkien but he's breaking my heart!

message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

He'll come 'round to it eventually, Heather. They always do.

message 45: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments Heather, apparently my mind is not working. What is TBBT?

message 46: by Serf (new) - rated it 3 stars

Serf The big bang theory Susan. I really enjoy that show.

message 47: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul TBBT is great. Manic and cliched ar times but always fun.

message 48: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I finished the first five chapters and while the setting and premise is sci-fi and theres a little bit if tech overall its not reading as a heavy scifi. Its more of a survivor tail based around a likeable character more akin to Robinson Crusoe than any scifi book.

message 49: by H (new) - added it

H (hiisdaarkmaaterials) | 430 comments Mod
So. Does sci fi mean aliens.
Science experiments? I'm always confused exactly what makes something a sci fi.

message 50: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul @littlemissmuffet My thoughts exactly .It should definitely be accessible and might encourage a few Sci fi newbies in.
@heather. Its not easy to mail down. Two statements I read before about defining it -
"Sci Fi is whatever you are pointing at when you say it"
"you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it"

But for me its based on writing about alternative pasts, futures or worlds based on a logical scientific speculation.
It differs from fantasy in that fantasy can create from nothing and add the fantastic were as scifi tries to build on science or history itself.

Probably not definitive and genres cross over a lot.

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