Having wanted to see what all the fuss was about, our book club just finished The Martian, by Andy Weir.
And was the fuss justified? Well, yes and no.
It’s my belief that hard-core science fiction fans came out in droves and catapulted this originally self-published novel on Kindle to amazing heights. Who else would be able to get through the first fifty pages of mind-numbing tech-speak and mathematical calculations?
Granted, it’s an intriguing premise: Mark Watney, an astronaut on the Mars Ares 3 mission, is believed by his fellow crewmates to have been killed in a sandstorm, and is left behind on the lifeless planet. He is, however, very much alive, and must find a way to survive the next four years until the next Ares mission comes around.
Luckily, Watney is super-resourceful, and uses his math, chemistry, engineering, and botany credentials to rig up life support, plant a crop of potatoes, and get in touch with NASA.
What ensues is an impressive survival story, especially when Mars and fate do their utmost to foil Watney at every turn. It’s not only his smarts that get him through this, but his incredible perseverance in the face of overwhelming adversity, as well as a healthy dose of (randy) humor.
Once Watney’s first-person log entries are broken up by the third-person points of view of various NASA scientists and his former crewmates trying to get him home, the book becomes much more readable. My eyes still glazed over some of the techy stuff, but I was content to know that once a problem arose, Watney was on it and would eventually solve it.
As I read, I found myself thinking, “This would make a fantastic movie,” and obviously, others thought so, too; the movie version was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. I’m looking forward to watching it with my book club next week, and will review it here as well, in contrast to the book, and on its own merits (The Martian-Part 2).
So although I believe the premise potentially lends itself perfectly to the big screen, it didn’t completely work for me as a novel. I wouldn’t have gotten past the first ten pages if I hadn’t been aware of its critical and popular acclaim. If you’re a science-fiction fan, you may well love it; for the rest of us, I think we can probably skip it and just enjoy the movie.