Wow. Just… wow. I picked up The Martian when I saw it won the Goodreads Choice Award for “Best Science Fiction”, and I have to say, I don’t regret it one bit.
The Martian chronicles the desperate struggle for survival of one man on the face of Mars. Ares 3 was supposed to be a month-long mission with a crew of 6. When an unexpected sandstorm comes blasting through the area, resident botanist and mechanical engineer, Mark Watney is injured by flying shrapnel and is presumed dead. With no other option than to leave him behind, the rest of the crew – led by their commander, Melissa Lewis – abort the mission and board the ascension vehicle out of there. Little do they know, Watney is still alive.
Using his quick thinking, reparative skills, and ability to keep himself entertained, Watney must find a way to survive on a planet that is constantly trying to kill him. Right from the start, deadly problems arise, and each one is a dramatic hurdle to get over. Whether it’s the looming terror of starvation, the Hab (his home) exploding into the thin atmosphere, or thousand-kilometre treks over the harsh and crater-riddled surface of Mars.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Watney is celebrated for his noble sacrifice. Memorials are held and Mark Watney stamps are issued in his memory. However, when one lowly NASA employee reviews satellite imagery of the abandoned Ares 3 site, what she sees makes her blood run cold. Mark Watney is still alive. The realization throws the entire country into a panicked frenzy. A team of high-level NASA administrators – led by the Director of the Mars Mission, Venkat Kapoor – begin their arduous process of damage control, keeping secrets, and of course, finding out how in the world they’re going to save Mark Watney.
Plans after plans are shot down. Too dangerous, too impractical, too insane. Even with pooled resources and everybody standing on the same side for once, they simply just can’t do anything to save Watney with the limited timeframe that they have. The first probe carrying supplies explodes on takeoff, months of round the clock labour and intensive planning goes down the drain. With no probe and no plan, the only thing the world can do is sit back and watch Watney starve to death.
But what’s this? The Chinese have a secret probe? Resentful that they have to use a multi-billion dollar probe to save the life of one American man, the Chinese offer up their services to the Americans to save Watney. Even with this huge advantage, the probe itself isn’t enough. It simply just won’t arrive on Mars in time. With the ingenious plan of a young astrodynamicist, they devise a plan to use Hermes, the giant spacecraft that Lewis and her crew are currently occupying, to slingshot back to Mars and hopefully rescue Watney before it’s too late.
This novel had me glued to my iPad for five days in a row. I would’ve finished it sooner if I wasn’t being constantly interrupted by holiday festivities. Who knew science fiction could be so riveting? And I mean it when I say ‘science fiction’. I don’t usually read sci-fi novels, simply because I prefer a good drama than a meticulously crafted, futuristic world with boring details and lack of story. However, even with Watney describing all the scientific processes he’s going through and the abundance of engineering jargon, my eyes didn’t glaze over once. Success!
I absolutely love how the novel is written. The characters really set themselves apart. Even though he got the shit end of a giant stick, Mark Watney isn’t angry nor bitter, but thoroughly appreciates the cold and cruel irony of the situation. He’s even got an incredible sense of humour for somebody who can be thoroughly fucked without warning. He constantly makes quippy remarks that had me chuckling, even though I was fearing for his life. Really makes the reader root for the guy. “I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”
The novel switches point of view many times throughout the novel. One chapter might be written through Watney’s space log, and the next might be through a third-person perspective back at Houston. Then another might follow the story of the canvas fabric that Watney is currently using. I haven’t read too many books that do this, and while strange to swallow at first, it doesn’t deter from the story at all. In fact, it adds to it. As for the science of it all, I’m no expert, but it all sounded pretty legitimate to me. And according to the Internet, the science was pretty accurate. So there. The Internet has spoken.
As I was reaching the climax of the story, my heart was pounding and I struggled to keep my eyes to one sentence before they betrayed me and jumped down to the next one, desperate to find out what happens next. In fact, I was so freaked out by what was happening that I missed the emotional rise and falls hidden in the last couple of pages. If there was one thing I could tweak, it’d be the ending. I don’t have a problem with how it ended, but I would’ve liked to see a more extended and satisfying conclusion. After all, we did spend a year and a half on a godforsaken planet.
The Martian is hands-down one of the best novels I’ve read this year. From the moment you pick it up, to the very last page, it’s an exhilarating roller coaster ride. There’s always the possibility you might die, but it’s thrilling as hell.
The film adaptation is slated for release next November 10th of next year, so it’s less than a year away. And who other to direct this spacey-wacey film than Ridley Scott? Oh, and guess who’s going to be Mark Watney? That’s right. Matt Damon.
I honestly have all the confidence in the world that Ridley Scott and my beloved Matt Damon will do an incredible job at creating an amazing space film. The book translates well onto the big screen (in my opinion, anyway), and frankly, there will be no shortage of suspense and drama. The only problem they might run into is conveying Watney’s inner dialogue, which is a key element to telling the story.
The cast looks amazing as well. Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wigg, Sean Bean, and Donald Glover? Sign me up!
Anyway, READ THIS BOOK. You’ll be shitting your pants the entire time, I guarantee it. Actually, no, I don’t. But you’ll get close enough.