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The Martian is the first published novel by American author Andy Weir. It was originally self-published in 2011 after which Crown Publishing purchased the rights and re-released it in 2014.

A science fiction novel, the story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars and must improvise in order to survive. It has been described as an Apollo 13 meets Cast Away.

Plot Summary

In 2035, the crew of the NASA Ares 3 mission to Mars are ordered to lift off from their landing site in Acidalia Planitia six days into their planned month-long stay due to an intense dust storm which threatens to topple their launch vehicle. During the hurried evacuation, astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, is impaled by an antenna that was torn loose, flung out of sight by the wind and believed dead. Lewis, the mission commander, has no choice but to abandon the search for him, as the launch vehicle teeters dangerously.

However, Watney is not dead. His injury proves relatively minor, but with no way to contact Earth, he must rely on his own resourcefulness to survive. He begins a log of his experiences. With food a critical, though not immediate, problem, he begins growing potatoes in the Hab, the crew's Martian habitat, and burns hydrazine to make water for the plants.

NASA eventually discovers that he is alive when satellite images of the landing site show evidence of his activities; they begin working on ways to rescue him, but withhold the news of his survival from the rest of the Ares 3 crew, on their way back to Earth aboard the Hermes spacecraft, so as not to distract them.

Watney plans to drive 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) to Schiaparelli crater where the next mission, Ares 4, will land in four years. He begins modifying one of the rovers for the journey, adding solar cells and an additional battery. He makes a three-week test drive to recover the unmanned Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover and brings them back to the Hab, enabling him to contact NASA. Mitch Henderson, the Ares 3 flight director, convinces NASA Administrator Teddy Sanders to allow him to inform the Ares 3 crew of Watney's survival; his crewmates are thrilled, except for Melissa Lewis, who is guilt-stricken at leaving him behind.

The canvas at one of the Hab airlocks tears due to Watney's repeated use of the airlock, decompressing the Hab and nearly killing him. He repairs the Hab, but his plants are dead, threatening him again with eventual starvation. Setting aside safety protocols due to time constraints, NASA hastily prepares an unmanned probe to send Watney supplies, but the rocket disintegrates after liftoff. A deal with the China National Space Administration provides a ready booster to try again, but with no time to build a probe with a soft-landing system, NASA is faced with the prospect of building one whose cargo can survive crashing into the Martian surface at 300 meters per second (671 mph).

However, astrodynamicist Rich Purnell devises a "slingshot" trajectory around Earth for a gravity assist that could get Hermes back to Mars on a much-extended mission to save Watney, using the Chinese rocket to send a simpler resupply probe to Hermes as it passes Earth. Sanders vetoes the "Rich Purnell Maneuver" (Project Elrond), as it would entail risking the other crew members, but (allegedly) Henderson secretly emails the details to Hermes. All five of Watney's crew mates approve the plan. Once they begin the maneuver (and disable NASA's remote overrides), NASA has no choice but to support them. The resupply ship docks with Hermes successfully.

Watney resumes modifying the rover, since the new rescue plan requires him to lift off from Mars in the Ares 4's Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), pre-positioned at Schiaparelli. While working on the rover, Watney accidentally shorts out the electronics of Pathfinder, losing the ability to communicate with Earth (except for spelling out Morse code with rocks).

After Watney leaves for Schiaparelli, NASA discovers that a dust storm is approaching his path, but has no way to warn him. The rover's solar cells will be less and less able to recharge, endangering both the rendezvous and his immediate survival (if there is not enough power to run his life-support equipment). While crossing Arabia Terra, Watney becomes aware of the approaching storm by chance and improvises a rough measurement of its shape and direction of movement, enabling him to go around it.

Surviving a rover rollover on his descent into Schiaparelli, Watney reaches the MAV and re-establishes contact with NASA. He receives instructions on the radical modifications necessary to reduce the MAV's weight to enable it to intercept Hermes during its flyby. The modifications include removing the front of the MAV, which Watney has to cover with Hab canvas. After takeoff, the canvas tears, creating extra drag and leaving the MAV too low for the rendezvous. Lewis hastily improvises a plan to intercept the MAV by firing Hermes' attitude thrusters and then blowing a hole in the front airlock with an improvised sugar-and-liquid-oxygen bomb, using the thrust from the escaping air to reduce speed. Beck, the HermesEVA specialist, uses a Manned Maneuvering Unit on a tether to reach Watney and bring him back to Hermes. In a final log entry, Watney expresses his joy at being rescued, reflecting on the human instinct to help those in need.

Film Adaption

In March 2013, Twentieth Century Fox optioned the film rights, and hired screenwriter Drew Goddard to adapt and direct the film. In May 2014, it was reported that Ridley Scott was in negotiations to direct an adaptation that would star Matt Damon as Mark Watney. On September 3, 2014, Jessica Chastain joined the film as Commander Lewis. The ensemble cast also includes Kristen WiigJeff DanielsMichael PeñaKate MaraSean BeanSebastian Stan and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film was released on October 2, 2015.

On December 5, 2014, the Orion spacecraft took the cover page of The Martian script on the first test flight of the unmanned Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1). The script was launched atop a Delta IV Heavy on the flight lasting 4 hours and 24 minutes, landing at its target in the Pacific Ocean.

In October 2015, NASA presented a new web tool to follow Watney's trek across Mars, and details of NASA's next steps, as well as a health hazards report, for a real-world human journey to Mars.

Publishing history

Andy Weir, the son of a particle physicist, has a background in computer science. He began writing the book in 2009, researching related material so that it would be as realistic as possible and based on existing technology. Weir studied orbital mechanics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight. He said he knows the exact date of each day in the book. He specifically avoided physically describing the characters when not necessary for the plot.

Having been rebuffed by literary agents when trying to get prior books published, Weir decided to put the book online in serial format one chapter at a time for free on his website. At the request of fans, he made an Amazon Kindle version available at 99 cents (the minimum allowable price he could set). The Kindle edition rose to the top of Amazon's list of best-selling science-fiction titles, where it sold 35,000 copies in three months, more than had been previously downloaded free. This garnered the attention of publishers: Podium Publishing, an audiobook publisher, signed for the audiobook rights in January 2013. Weir sold the print rights to Crown in March 2013 for over US$100,000.

The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014, in the hardcover fiction category at twelfth position.

Editions

The Martian was published in print by Crown on February 11, 2014. An audiobook edition, narrated by R. C. Bray and released by Podium Publishing, preceded the print release in March 2013 on Audible.com, and was later followed with an MP3 CD in association with Brilliance Audio. The audiobook was nominated and won an Audie Award (2014) in the Science Fiction category. A Classroom Edition, published by Broadway Books in May 2016, contains educational materials and uses school-appropriate language.

Reception

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said that "Weir laces the technical details with enough keen wit to satisfy hard science fiction fan and general reader alike."

Kirkus Reviews called The Martian "Sharp, funny and thrilling, with just the right amount of geekery."

The Wall Street Journal called the book "the best pure sci-fi novel in years."

Entertainment Weekly gave the novel a grade of "B", describing it as "an impressively geeky debut novel" but saying Weir "stumbles with his secondary characters".

USA Today rated The Martian three out of four stars, calling it "terrific stuff, a crackling good read" but noting that "Mark's unflappability, perhaps the book's biggest asset, is also its greatest weakness. He's a wiseacre with a tendency to steer well clear of existential matters."

Amazing Stories commented, "Andy Weir's The Martian will leave you as breathless as if you'd been dropped on the Martian surface without a suit".

Awards and honours

The Japanese translation of the novel won the Seiun Award for Best Translated Long Story in 2015.

Solanum Watneyi, a species of bush tomato from Australia, was named after the fictional botanist. It is a member of the same genus as the potato, Solanum Tuberosum.

At the 2016 Hugo Awards, Andy Weir won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer for The Martian.

The screenplay adapted from the novel additionally won Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

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