In 1969, at the cusp of man’s race to land on the moon, I read Marooned by Martin Caidin. It was a science fiction thriller about a manned spacecraft stranded in Earth orbit, which at the time was a bit too realistic for anyone’s comfort. Flash forward to 2011 when author Andy Weir self-publishes The Martian, the story of an American astronaut stranded on Mars in the year 2035. Both books are science fiction, both involve NASA scrambling to organize a viable rescue plan during a space mission, and both novels have movie adaptations.
But while both novels were dramatic in their delivery, The Martian adds a modicum of humor to the story line to offset the fundamentally dangerous situation faced by the characters. While still a thriller, main character and astronaut Mark Watney is unflappable, as well as a wizard with a roll of duct tape (“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped”).
In hindsight, I did enjoy reading both Marooned and The Martian, but the former is now a technologically dated novel (been there—done that). In fact, I found the technical details in the Weir novel to have enough detail to bring a smile to the face of the most hardcore science fiction fan. And I won’t reveal the outcome of The Martian. But I will say that it is satisfyingly gripping.