Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Science Fiction, Suspense
Origins: Crown Publishing
Release Date: 11 February 2014
Bottom Line: Love, love, love, love, love
“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”
Thoughts: At the heart of The Martian is a very real commentary on the types of philosophical and sociological debates humans will have to face as they push space exploration towards Mars and beyond. The decisions Mark, his crew, and all of those involved at NASA must make are excruciating and delve to the heart of the risks/rewards debate of a robust space program. To boldly go where no man has gone before may not be worth the risks after all.
Mark Watney is one of the most entertaining heroes ever written. His penchant for dealing with stress through humor lightens the storyline, but more importantly, it reinforces his humanity. At the same time, it is so easy for readers to forget that he really is in a one-man struggle for survival in a situation where all of the odds are not in his favor because he is so affable. There are many times where readers will find themselves chuckling aloud at Mark’s antics, deservedly so.
All of the humor though cannot diminish the remarkableness of the story. Here is a man on a dangerous mission who genuinely forgives his crew for leaving him stranded on Mars without enough food, water, or other supplies. His ability to cope with his situation is astounding and inspiring, especially given how quick to find guilt society has become. His story is admirable in other ways. For one, he uses no super powers or coincidences that strain credulity. He uses old-fashioned hard work, knowledge, and logic to overcome obstacles. He also manages to maintain his sanity in spite of being completely isolated from everything and everyone and in the face of impossible odds. Again, he gives new meaning to the definition of a hero.
The story itself is extremely well-written and well-plotted. There are some extremely heartfelt moments as Mark comes to gripes with his odds of surviving and seeks to leave a lasting record of his survival attempts. Poignancy aside, there is no lull in the action, and the science elements are entirely plausible and easy to understand. In fact, Mark, in his journal entries, has a way of making even the most complex scientific experiment accessible without undermining the danger involved. Most importantly, nothing about Mark’s fate is certain, and a reader does not know until it is revealed whether he does survive or not.
The Martian is an intelligent and witty science-based story that reminds its audience of human abilities and perseverance. The feel-good moments hide to an extent the various serious situations in which Mark finds himself, which could easily bog down the entire narrative into a feeling of despair and hopelessness. Instead, The Martian is hopeful – that man can triumph against the odds, that we can harness technology to further scientific advancement, and that there is such a thing as a happy ending. Whether that hope lasts throughout the story is for a reader to discover. Regardless of what happens, watching Mark in action is worth any amount of emotional pain or suspense a reader must endure.