By: Mark Weir
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?
This book has been on my radar since I heard of it. When it hit big last year, I ended up a bit on the fence whether or not to pick it up because I had read some mixed reviews on it; or, at the very least, I wasn’t in any rush to pick it up. It was only after I saw the trailer to the upcoming movie adaptation starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastin that I got excited again and decided to read it.
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Well, that was quite the thriller, very suspenseful. If someone was stranded on Mars the way Mark found himself to be, I’d imagine those are the sorts of issues that person would be faced with (as well as those back at NASA). The story was quite the page-turner even as it was Mark narrating for most of the novel: How is Mark going to survive? How will he be able to fix x, y, and/or z? Is what he is doing enough? I have to concur with whoever it was on the internet who said that it was useful that he was an engineer and botanist; if it were me stuck on Mars alone, I’d be pretty much screwed and recite passages from Tolkien in the face of my end O_O
I can see why some people might not find Mark very funny or may have found him a little over the top and grating, but I found his sort of humour is needed if he’s to survive all alone on Mars with the materials he has, and it was appreciated at times. His personality is also perfect in explaining a lot of the science he’s doing and the plans he’s making to try and survive for as long as he can; physics and chemistry were never my strong suit but he explained what he was doing in a way that was a little more understandable. The randomness that comes out of him sometimes was especially hilarious and more in line with my sense of humour. Case in point (my favourite moment in the whole book, really):
“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61
How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.
But going back to the story, it wasn’t so much Castaway as I thought it would be; I appreciated the interjecting chapters focusing on what’s going on at Earth/NASA and what mission control was doing when they found out the truth about what happened to Mark. I liked the secondary characters, from Watney’s crewmates (honestly wished they had more page-time, I thought they were quite an eclectic group of characters. Also, Commander Melissa Lewis is a total bad-ass) to the personnel back on Earth, including the bureaucracy involved and weighing the pros and cons of how to proceed with Mark’s situation.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Martian. There was a bit of a lull moment towards the final act when all of the storylines come together, but otherwise it was quite the page turner from start to finish. I can see why the book was much-talked about and why it was optioned to be adapted as a movie. I hope the movie does stay close to the book as it felt like quite an easy book to adapt story-wise. Am definitely looking forward to watching it! In the meantime, yeah, I recommend checking out this novel if you’re into science fiction and thrillers.