If I was given a choice to go up into outer space and visit a planet like Mars, I would probably pass. I’m perfectly fine here on Earth watching or reading about those brave people who are more than willing to enter space, not knowing if something could go wrong at any time. I’ve been a big fan of science fiction movies from the classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey to the campy, guilty pleasure, Total Recall, and I plan on seeing Gravity soon. I first spotted The Martian by Andy Weir at last year’s New York City Comic Con. The cover made me think of the movie Gravity, plus The Martian was originally self published in 2012, and then picked up by traditional publisher Crown, for a February 2014 release. The Martian hit the New York Times and USA Today best seller list within it’s first week of release and is currently there for a second week in a row. Even though I love watching space movies, I’m not a big Science Fiction reader, but decided to give The Martian a chance. The Martian had me hooked from the first page with the first line- “I’m pretty much fucked.”
The Martian as of now is set to be in my top 20 for 2014. Andy Weir’s writing and storytelling skills are superb here. We have a very engaging character in botanist and astronaut, Mark Watney, who unfortunately was thought dead and left on Mars by his beloved crew. Mark survives after a nasty fall and then has to figure out a way to stay alive for the next four years when the next mission to Mars, known as the Ares mission comes back. The biggest problem for Mark is starvation. He may not have enough food. He also has no way to communicate with NASA. No one knows he’s alive, so he has to not only create more food sources (he has potatoes to play with at least), but find a way to get in touch with NASA and hope they can send help sooner.
Mark is a very positive guy and doesn’t freak out by his situation. He plans on staying alive by any means necessary. He has a lot of resources to use, which is explained in great detail. The process of how he uses these materials is amazing. Mark spends his SOLs (days here are known as SOLs) explaining how he does everything in journal entries. Mark is a very witty and funny guy, but also very smart. His tenacity and intelligence may keep him alive.
The majority of the action in The Martian is from Mark’s POV. Mark is the every man who is stuck in a bad situation by no fault of his own. You root for Mark from the moment you meet him and find yourself chuckling as he laments how he only has old 1970’s sitcoms to watch and disco to listen to during those down times he’s not working. Everything is explained in such incredible detail, I felt like I was right next to Mark. Halfway through the story, we’re brought back down to Earth as we see the inner workings of NASA as they find out Mark is alive and the steps they will take to save him. We also see Mark’s crew and the sacrifices and lengths they’ll go to save Mark also. The danger is intense and not only may Mark die, but his dedicated crew, who you also get to know individually and will bond with, may get a raw deal and fail. There is some morbid talk, such as the Mark’s captain, who if things go wrong, will stay alive to return to Earth by possibly turning to cannibalism (she’ll end up eating her crew who might have no choice but end their lives because their own food source is very limited). That option is on the table, and it may sound disturbing, but the way it’s handled and discussed is treated in a lighthearted way.
There is some on the edge of your seat action where Mark’s fate could go either way. There is a very positive message of fellowship and how humanity from all walks of life is willing to come together to save one individual. It’s very uplifting. The Martian is all about hope and looking on the bright side of things even when it’s really bad and all hope seems lost. I ended up having a major girl crush on Mark because he’s so positive and has a great personality.
The Martian would be a great a movie (are you listening, Hollywood?). I also feel it just maybe an underdog that becomes one of the most talked about and raved books of 2014. It’s a great story that tugs on your heart strings by a masterful storyteller with an engaging cast. The Martian gets more than two intergalactic thumbs up from me!