To be honest, I had not heard a peep about Andy Weir’s 2011 novel The Martian until it became an Oscar-nominated film this past season. I didn’t even realize it was a book until I ran across Matt Damon’s face in a spacesuit while browsing the library a few weeks ago. Normally, I avoid books on space. I am not a space fan.
I kind of hate space.*
It’s dark, cold and when you have beautiful green Earth to read about, why bother with it? However, one of my good friends had just read The Martian and loved it, and I figured if the movie was nominated for some Oscars, it had to be pretty good, right? I tend to stick to the same genres so this was me trying to branch out.
Let me tell you, that was a great decision.
This book is HILARIOUS.
Who knew someone stranded on Mars could be so witty? In case you’re not familiar with the storyline, NASA astronaut Mark Watney gets accidentally stranded on Mars during a mission. By the time anyone realizes he is still alive, his crew and spaceship are long gone. Cue a bunch of NASA supernerds frantically trying to come up with a plan to bring Watney home alive.
Much of the story is told from Watney’s sol log (short for “solar day log”) where he narrates his day-to- day activities on Mars. These include scientific descriptions of his status (“I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.”), comments on his supplies (“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”), the outcomes of his experiments (“Something very hot and very explodey had happened.”), and general musings about the universe (“How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”)
This is accompanied, as you can see, by Watney’s dry humor that had me actually LOLing. I guess if you’re stranded alone on Mars with little hope of rescue, you have to have a sense of humor.
I really think the best part of this book is how Weir is able to make a science fiction novel so incredibly believable. Okay, that’s not entirely true. The best part is the awkward, nerdy NASA humor (“Looks like I’ll live another sol. Live Another Sol would be an awesome name for a James Bond movie.”). Anyway, when we aren’t being entertained by Watney’s feats of survival on Mars, we are following the NASA team on Earth as they use their combined massive brainpower to try and come up with a plan to save Watney.
I know we haven’t quite reached the men-on- mars point in our real space travel, but it all sounded so real. Maybe I only think this because I know little to nothing about space travel, but I think more likely it’s the fact that author Weir (a computer programmer by trade) meticulously studied every single aspect of the math, chemistry and orbital trajectories described in the book. It feels so real that at multiple points in the book I found myself gripping my chair/bus seat/roommates out of sheer anxiety for what was about to occur. Will this plan work?
Will Watney survive on Mars??
Will the supernerds succeed?!?
You’ll have to read The Martian to find out.
*excludes Star Trek and Star Wars because come on, people. P.S. Picard forever.