“It’s a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I’m the first. Step outside the rover? First guy to ever be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn’t moved in a million years!
… I’m the first person to be alone on an entire planet.”
The Martian, by Andy Weir
Crown Publishers, February 2014
science fiction thriller
369 pages (hardcover)
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?
Let’s start off with this: space is terrifying to me. It really freaks me out. I can handle it better in certain settings; typically it’s less disturbing the further from our own reality it is. So watching Star Trek has never really been an issue. But Gravity might as well be a horror movie for me. (No, I haven’t seen it, and probably never will… just like most horror movies.)
But, just like I can read a horror novel when I’d never watch the movie version, this book didn’t freak me out as much as a movie (and apparently there’s one in the works) probably would. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, mostly because of Mark Watney himself.
Imagine the farthest from home you’ve ever been… even if you’ve been halfway around the world, you’re still on the same blue dot you left from. And if you’ve ever gone out late at night or in the middle of a storm and felt like you could be the only person in the world… yeah, there are still billions of us together here. Not like Mark. He’s the most alone that anyone has ever been. And that really is terrifying. But Mark makes it okay.
I’ve heard criticisms about the humorous side of this book, that Mark is too high-spirited, makes too much light of his situation… but really, what else could he do? His humor keeps him sane. It keeps him from just giving up. And for the reader, it helps to balance out a story that could get overwhelming with dry details.
But the story isn’t just about Mark. It’s about people back on Earth dealing with a public relations disaster. It’s about the crew that left him behind. There are a lot of perspectives in this cobbled-together narrative. At times I would get frustrated by that, but it was also a great way to build tension. Because suddenly I’d be reading about something that seemed completely irrelevant, but I knew that when it tied back to the main story, something big was about to happen… usually something bad. (And by “bad,” I mean “worse than being trapped on Mars in the first place.”)
Despite the dire circumstances, this really was an entertaining book, and one I absolutely plan to revisit in the future.
I guess the question is… will I revisit it in movie form when it comes out?
Does The Martian sound like something you’d pick up? If you were in a hopeless situation, would you fight for survival? Or would you give up?