Science fiction has appealed to me ever since childhood. One of my favourite authors ever is William Sleator. Interstellar Pig still holds a special place in my heart. I’d love to see a movie done for that one, but Jumanji has already been done. (The original book is beautifully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Look for it.) Creating something similar with space aliens and beach front property probably won’t tickle the bank accounts of any producers right now. Someone did go through the trouble of posting the game rules, though, should a game board ever find its way into this dimension from somewhere else. It would probably look something like Merchant of Venus.
But I digress.
An unfortunate accident befalls a crew on Mars and they have to evacuate. One astronaut, Mark Watney, gets hurled away from their space vehicle by debris. He’s presumed dead so his team leaves him behind. Turns out he’s fine and surprisingly not that pissed off at getting left behind. He’s a logical guy and knows it was the best call for his commander to make. “The needs of the many…” if I may borrow from a different sci-fi film.
Watney is an engineer and botanist. Most of the story is told through the log entries he makes each day, explaining what he’s decided to do, what he’s had to fix, and how many times he just about killed himself doing something risky, dangerous, or slightly stupid. And at the time he has no way to contact Earth and NASA due to what led to the evacuation so nobody knows he’s alive.
Fortunately, someone monitoring the satellites around Mars notices some action and gets the ball rolling in terms of rescue options. (Some are better than others.) They notice that Watley’s driven one of his rovers in the direction of the old Pathfinder mission site and soon realize his intention: to get the radio pieces functioning again. With that, they make plans for his pickup at the site where the next mission was supposed to land. Part of that project is already there: the launch vehicle, slowly harvesting atmosphere to make enough fuel to reach orbit. If Watley can get to it in time, his old crew on the Hermes can do a fly-by and collect him. Of course, it wouldn’t be as entertaining a story if it all went off without a hitch…
From what I heard about the book before starting it, Weir made a point of sticking as close to the real science behind potential Mars missions as he could for plotting out Watney’s chances of survival with supplies on hand.
Also, from the Wikipedia page about the book:
Having been rebuffed by literary agents, Weir put the book online for free at his website. At the request of fans he made a Amazon Kindle version available through Amazon.com at 99 cents (the minimum he could set the price). 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. This garnered the attention of publishers: Podium Publishing, an audiobook publisher, signed for the audiobook rights in January, 2013, and Weir sold the print rights to Crown in March 2013 for six figures.
The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014 in the hardcover fiction category at twelfth position.
I wonder if this method is becoming a standard in the publishing industry these days. Don’t risk money on a new author until it’s established that his/her writing appeals to a big enough digital audience to justify selling to the paper lovers. I’m a paper lover. I don’t know if I’ll ever own a tablet and can’t see the point of trying to read a whole book on my iPod. I’m not much for audio book versions either, although I’ve listened to several entertaining ones that are like listening to plays with musical scores and sound effects and everything fun. I’m happy with the hard copy generally.
Another book I quite enjoyed and now own (a withdrawn library copy) is Wool by Hugh Howey.
Howey first began the series in 2011, initially writing Wool as a stand-alone short story. He published the work through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system, choosing to do so due to the freedom of self-publishing. After the series grew in popularity, he began to write more entries for it. Howey began soliciting international rights in 2012, and has since signed with Brazil. Film rights to the series were sold to 20th Century Fox; Lionsgate also expressed interest.
Howey signed a print-only deal for around $500,000 with Simon & Schuster to distribute Wool to book retailers across the US and Canada.[when?] Howey retains full rights to continue distributing Wool online himself.
The book copy I have was available for sale by March 2013 and the rest of the trilogy has been published and released. I’d recommend that set, too. Look at that, six book recommendations for the price of one. Lucky reader or what?