We Loved Being Stranded on Mars with The Martian
We love reading about post-apocalyptic nightmares and blood-sucking demonic folk, but it’s important that us sci-fi nerds return to our roots from time to time: stories about astronauts getting into trouble doing relatively routine stuff. Sound boring? Well, The Martian is anything but.
Andy Weir's The Martian follows Mark Watney, a talented and hilarious astronaut who accidentally gets left behind on a space mission to Mars. A huge sandstorm sweeps him away and forces the rest of his crew to abort, thinking that he definitely died when part of his suit ripped. Luckily for Mark, he managed to seal it up and survive the unfortunately timed storm, taking refuge in the artificial abode designed to house the astronauts while they made their scientific observation. Mark then realizes that he’s almost definitely going to die on Mars, because it’ll be years before another crew lands on the planet, and he has nowhere near enough food to last that long.
A lot of the book is told from the perspective of Mark’s journal entries. He’s not sure if he’s going to survive or not, but figures that the logs would be good for future astronauts to learn the truth, and hopefully get some new information from anything he learns while trying to survive in such an unforgiving place. Luckily, it’s not all serious. Mark is frequently hilarious as he complains about his captain’s collection of disco music, as well as the story changes of the entire run of Three’s Company he’s forced to watch for entertainment.
There’s something really appealing about The Martian for those who love their sci-fi to have some actual science to go along with it,. Reading about Mark as he tries to grow potatoes in his new home in an environment that couldn’t be more unfriendly to plant life is actually interesting, and he manages to deal with all the problems that pop up with great humor.
Things get especially interesting when the people back on Earth figure out that Mark isn’t dead, thanks to satellite imagery of Mars that shows that the equipment on the surface of the red planet has been moved from time to time. They quickly spring into action, trying to figure out a way to establish contact with Mark on Mars, while also trying to co-ordinate a way to get Mark the supplies he needs so he can survive the terrifying span of time before Ares 4 will arrive and be able to bring him home.
The writing style is pretty casual and should please readers that are used to YA books, but it also has enough interest and intensity to please adult readers. The characters on Earth tend to kind of blend together, unfortunately, but Mark is so likable that it doesn't even matter. The success of The Martian hinges on whether or not the reader gives a crap that Mark makes it home, and it takes less than two pages to realize that Mark Watney is awesome and you want him to survive.
The Martian does get a bit slow at times, as there are periods where constant science is being thrown in your face. We don’t have PhDs in rocket science, so we can’t verify whether or not the science actual works, but Weir's got us convinced! Ultimately, it’s a really fun and realistic sci-fi novel with a great lead character. It’s only a matter of time before The Martian becomes another big summer blockbuster.