The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian by Andy Weir was an instant best selling science fiction novel. The book was so popular it became a critically acclaimed film as well. I was a bit late getting to this, largely because of the hype the book received. However, I am glad to have finally gotten around to reading it and reviewing it here.
I will make the assumption that the science in The Martian is accurate, largely because I don’t have the time to research the data. As science fiction, many of the ideas are currently unavailable, but plausible. No human has made it to Mars yet, but it seems doable in the future. What makes sci-fi attractive is that it is believable and that the science doesn’t overwhelm the value of the story.
And The Martian is a great story.
The story centers around the martian, Mark Watney, yet becomes more complicated as NASA and practically the entire world becomes involved.
Andy Weir does a great job of writing by explaining facts when needed and avoiding unnecessary prose. Much of the story is told from the point of view of Mark in the form of logs. Thus, we get his self-filtered dialogue. The other large part of the story is told from NASA experts, so we get a lot of debates on how to rescue the lost martian.
I prefer the logs over the rest of the book. Mark’s unfiltered diary gives the reader the feeling of being on Mars and trying to survive. When we switch to NASA, it is definitely interesting and we get some commentary on why they should rescue him. I wish there would have been more discussion on this. There has to be a limit to how far we go to rescue anyone.
Occasionally, we are given random information that explains things that happen, but could easily have been left out. We shouldn’t be privy to the info at all.
The story consists of two main ideas. One of course is survival. Mark faces mortality every day, but instead of giving in by giving up, he keeps busy. His ability to survive depends on a wide range of issues. But he does an excellent job of facing each issue, one at a time.
The other main idea is justifying allocating so many resources to help one lost astronaut. To spend billions of dollars to send a rescue mission to Mars for one person is ludicrous on paper. This amount of money could help a large number of people.
NASA justifies it in the name of science and it is a good argument. Each day a human is on Mars provides an incredible amount of data. But is rescuing Mark merely a smoke screen to encouraging him to survive as long as possible?
Without spoiling the story, The Martian is fast-paced and highly enjoyable. There is hardly a dull moment. I went away with a better understanding of the possibilities of survival on the red planet. But more importantly, a new idea of whether or not space exploration is worthwhile, and the value we place on humanity.