Reading today’s bestsellers can lead you back to more great books.
The brand-new title I have to share with you is perfect for this week’s theme “Help,” even if at first glance you think it might not be your type of book. The Martian by Andy Weir is pure, geeky, unalloyed sci-fi. But this new novel is also chockfull of the kind of ingenuity that any woman who has ever resorted to making dinner for guests from the contents of her pantry can appreciate.
Narrator astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars and told he can’t be rescued for 1,412 days. Even after he details the supplies with which he’s left, both our hero and readers instantly know they’re not enough. Fortunately, Watney is both a mechanical engineer and a botanist (before you shout “How convenient!”, remember, NASA would have wanted to send someone with the relevant skills, right?), so when life gives him lemons, he makes lemonade.
In the book, life gives him potatoes, and he makes — well, you’ll have to read to find out for yourself, but what happens is both plausible and ingenious. Even if you haven’t touched a science-fiction book since your tomboy phase ended in the late 1980s, this is a book worthy of your attention and nightstand. Weir has created a character and a world in which help is both the kind you give yourself, and the kind you get from your society, culture, planet, and maybe — just maybe — from something out of this world.
Interestingly, after reading The Martian, the book from the backlist that came up is one I’ve love and adored for ages — Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. If you’ve read and loved it, please tell us in the comments — but if you’ve never read it, it is one I highly recommend you pick up. It’s the true story of a young Nicoleno Indian girl named Juana Maria (Karana in the book) who is left alone on a Pacific island for 18 years. Although The Martian owes a great deal to the classic novel Robinson Crusoe, as I read it I wondered if Weir had also been captivated as a child by O’Dell’s intricate rendering of Karana’s survival tactics and the help she receives from an unexpected quarter.