Book Review: The Martian

DarrinMell_WebImagine you’ve found yourself injured and stranded, left behind in a chaotic sequence of unfortunate events, on Mars. You’re trained in botany and mechanical engineering but there’s no way to communicate with earth and no way to survive long term on this new planet. What do you do? Do you fight to survive against all odds or do you give in to the inevitable outcome and give up?

These are the questions facing fictional astronaut Mark Watney in the novel “The Martian,” by Andy Weir; a “Castaway” meets “Apollo 13” story set in an unspecified time in the near future. It is told mostly through computer log entries written by the sole inhabitant of the “Red Planet” but also utilizes a third person voice to give perspective from the other characters working for NASA.

It is a suspenseful page-turning journey dense with technical scientific information (a result of exhaustive research and experimentation by self-professed “nerd” Weir) that manages to remain accessible and enjoyable for readers of all types through its carefully crafted balance of doom and hope.

The constant threat of dire consequences is cut by a perfectly tuned sense of humor. This humor serves as a survival tactic for the main character, allowing him to find perspective in the most unimaginable circumstances, and lends warmth to what could have been an unbearably dreary narrative.

While the log entries written by Mark Watney provide insight into the central figure of the story and carry the majority of the plot, the passages dedicated to the conversations and descriptions of the supporting cast of characters emerge as the most integral to the central message of the novel.

Without this type of voice the title may as well be “How to Survive in Space: A Manual,” because it is the reaction to one mans struggle by the rest of the world that sits at the very center of this adventure.

On the surface this is a science fiction novel about an astronaut’s incredible journey on another planet but stowed away just below the mathematics and physics and situational action is a moving tale showcasing the innate desire to survive and the true nature of the human spirit. A delightfully funny, heartwarming and genuinely surprising piece of writing, “The Martian” should be on everyone’s “Must Read” list.

If you’re too busy reading other books for class, the film adaptation of “The Martian “hits theaters on Friday, October 2.

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