I was a little hesitant about picking up this one, mostly because it has everything that terrifies me.
Everyone has that one plot that they try to avoid. Mine goes as follows:
A person is trapped in an uninhabitable place where they can’t go outside such as a submarine, different planet or space station. Everything goes wrong for that person. Bonus points if there is someone there with them trying to kill them off.
The Martian is this story, minus a kooky serial killer. After an accident Mark Wattney is trapped on Mars. It will be at least four years until NASA can send another manned spacecraft to pick him up. Meaning, he needs to find a way to survive on Mars in a habitat that is only meant to last for 30 days. On top of that he has to, you know, feed himself.
For this story to work you have to like your main character and I loved Mark. His sense of humour kept me coming back to the novel.
Never once does he feel sorry for himself making him an easy hero to root for. You want him to survive. You enjoy watching his successes and you’re emotionally invested in his failures. What I found the most interesting though is how Mark lacks romance. Never once does he mention a significant other. Never does he pine after someone back home. Instead when he thinks about his time at home it’s always in relation to his parents. It will be interesting to see if this is also in the film or if Hollywood will decree that Matt Damon needs a girlfriend or wife.
The majority of The Martian is told through Mark’s logs. Mark tells you everything. What TV shows he’s watching, how much he hates disco and how to convert O2 into H2O. Yup, you heard my right. Mark talks science to you. You may be asking, Alexandra you and math never get along. This is true. The science in The Martian never overshadows the story, nor does it come off as dry. I found myself wanting Mark to explain more of what he was doing to me.
While Mark spends his time busy sciencing shit together the reader also gets to see what’s happening back on earth. The reader gets to see how NASA handles Mark’s death and the eventual knowledge that he is in fact alive. I really liked how we got to see how the characters handled the media and how that caused internal and external stress.
On top of that, we get to see how the rest of the Ares crew is doing and how the loss of Mark affects them. In other words, there is A LOT happening in this novel.
Lately the science fiction and fantasy market has been flooded with dark fantasy and post apocalyptic science fiction futures. Fiction and film has been so focused on the negative lately. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good dark fantasy novel. It’s just that every once and while it’s nice to hear a story where when people come together, they do something good. This almost forced goodness is both a strength and a weakness for the novel. Logically, working together to save Mark Wattney doesn’t make sense, that’s millions of dollars down the tube for just one man. Yet that’s the ultimate beauty of The Martian, people are able to come together across the world to do the decent thing: bring Mark Wattney home. Not all our stories have to showcase the darkest sides of the human psyche. Hope isn’t dead.
So if you haven’t read The Martian, than I suggest you pick it up. Also check out the movie with Matt Damon which is in theatres on October 2nd aka today!