Summary: When Mark Watney finds himself trapped on Mars alone, he has to figure out how to survive using the supplies that are left behind and his amazing brain. Of course, long-term survival also depends on finding a way to communicate with Earth to let them know he is still alive…
Review: The only way you haven’t heard about this book – or at least the movie – is if you yourself were stranded on Mars for the past six months. So Hype City, right? Right. And when the masses love a book, I get really excited about it and then tend to be let down. Way. Way. Down.
While that was not the case with The Martian, I also didn’t love it to the ends of the earth. It was good. Very, very good. But as a self-proclaimed science fiction novice, I understand some people’s reaction to the scientific details. There were a lot. And for those who have strong interests in STEM, I imagine that is part of the draw. For those whose minds either don’t grasp these complex concepts or simply have no interest in doing so, it might feel very dry and boring and perhaps even intimidating.
While I’m not completely turned off by science, I don’t feel a strong pull towards it either. Since the science jargon neither irritated nor inspired me, I was able to understand its role in the story itself. And really, the more I think about it, so much of the story is about Mark’s experience on Mars, and his ENTIRE stay there is about his survival. His science knowledge was crucial. And we are hearing about his experience strictly through his logs, which he is leaving behind in case he doesn’t make it, so naturally he is documenting everything that he does. If he’s going to die, at least he can contribute something to science! So…science stuff.
But I digress, if you can get past the science part, you’ll get to find out how awesome Mark Watney is. Awesome. His positive attitude and his sarcastic humor are fantastic. He is a wonderfully written character (and yeah, I saw him as Matt Damon the whole time I was reading, and I can see why they would have cast him because I think he would have been a natural pick for me, too), and it was such a pleasure to go on this journey with him. If I were trapped on Mars with someone, Mark Watney would be that person. Actually, if I were trapped anywhere, I’d want Mark Watney to be my partner, but he’d be especially helpful if I was abandoned on Mars.
Something I didn’t really expect was the other perspectives offered towards the end of the book, to get a glimpse into what it feel like to be an astronaut, to choose to leave your family for extended periods of time to do something really dangerous, something so few people will ever get to do. There is so much sacrifice, a lot of patience, and an unfathomable amount of love and trust. When the astronauts got to make calls to their loved ones…got me right in the feels.
And then having to think about all the potential disasters they might have to avert while away from Earth, having to plan solutions for scenarios my non-science brain could never even imagine, while taking into account all the known needs and scientific limitations. Oy. It is a veritable miracle that we’ve ever gone to space, much less the moon, and that most who have attempted it have survived! CRAZY!
So, yeah. Science. Math. There is a lot of it. It’s space, people. Surviving on Mars. If you don’t want to read about botany, chemistry, engineering, computer science, astronomy, astrophysics…and the list goes on…watch the movie (haven’t seen it, but I hear it’s good, and that they took out a lot of the brainiac science stuff).
If you can successfully wade through science jargon, or at least aren’t likely to be put off by it, and you enjoy a great story about the many facets of being human under extreme circumstances, if you are open to expanding your mind and maybe being awed about the wonders of science once again, definitely give it a read. It’s totally worth it.