“The Martian” Book Review

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“The Martian” Book Review

Samantha Zakrzewski, Writer/Editor

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Imagine taking a trip with a group of your friends to some foreign country. You venture to a really underdeveloped part of said country, where there’s no sign of civilization. All of a sudden, a huge storm hits down on you guys. You and your friends quickly decide to evacuate, so you begin to head towards your means of transportation. But as you and your friends make your way to safety, hurricane force winds knock you unconscious and your friends assume that you are dead. Your friends must quickly decide if they should go find you or leave, since the transportation needs to leave soon or it will be destroyed. They make the tough decision to leave and, a while later, you wake up to find that you are left all alone in some foreign place.

A similar sequence of events happened to our witty protagonist, Mark Watney. Except, Mark wasn’t abandoned in some foreign country- he was abandoned on Mars.

“The Martian” takes place in a future where travel to Mars has been made possible. But before you complain that this is just another dystopian novel with flying cars, fret no more. “The Martian” is set in modern day, with the exception that travel to Mars is possible. Travel to Mars is a relatively new thing in the novel and (unfortunately for our protagonist) scientists are still working to improve it.

With that being said, rescuing Mark proves to be quite the challenge, since NASA can’t just send a ship to Mars to pick him up. NASA has a lot of preparing to do before anything is sent into space. Ships must undergo multiple tests to make sure that it will survive the launch and the journey to Mars. So unfortunately for Mark, NASA can’t just send him a ship of food and supplies that will aid him in his survival. Even if they could do it easily, it would take 300 days to reach him, as that’s how long it takes to travel to Mars. However, time is of the essence in Mark’s case and the scientists at NASA must work quickly and break a lot of rules (such as not properly testing the ships).

As I’ve mentioned, Mark Watney has been left stranded on Mars. However, just like in the anecdote mentioned above, his crewmates were left with no other option. During the sandstorm, Mark was struck by the antenna of the satellite communication dish. Commander Lewis, the commander of the mission, tried to locate Mark, but when they checked his EVA suit (the suit the travelers had to wear when leaving the Hab) from the MAV (the vehicle they needed to get on to get to their ship, Hermes), all connection was lost and it appeared as if Mark was dead. Although it pained her to do so, Commander Lewis was left with no other option than to leave Mark behind. After all, she had to consider the rest of the crew’s safety.

Mark has no communication with Earth or Hermes, since all communication was destroyed during the sandstorm. As you can see, things aren’t looking too good for Mark.

But he is not entirely left for dead- he does have the food that remains from his mission, Ares 3, and he has the Hab, the place where him and his crew would sleep and conduct experiments. But the food will not last him long- he has enough food for six people for 30 sols, the amount of time that him and his crew were supposed to be on Mars for.

Fortunately for Mark, he is a botanist and engineer and figures out a way to grow potatoes in the Hab. If you’re wondering how he got the potatoes, NASA sent them along with the other mission’s supplies. But why potatoes, you may ask? NASA wanted the crew to have potatoes for Thanksgiving- all of their other food is freeze-dried.

So as it turns out, there is hope of Mark escaping Mars- he knows that in four years there is supposed to be another mission, Ares 4. The only problem is getting there, since it’s so far away, and making the food last that long.

As many would have guessed, Mark eventually gets in contact with NASA and they are able to concoct a few plans to keep him alive. However, these plans fail and it only makes the race to keep Mark alive even more urgent.

Mark documents the events that unfold via log entries, since he wants people to know, in the event that he dies, that he didn’t die from being hit with the antenna and that he survived that. These log entries are extremely hilarious and entertaining to read. There are a countless number of jokes that almost make you forget that Mark could die at any moment.

However, “The Martian” is not entirely written from Mark’s perspective. We also witness Teddy Sanders (NASA administrator), Venkat Kapoor (Director of Mars Operations), Mitch Henderson (flight director of Ares 3), and Annie Montrose (director of media relations at NASA), struggling to save Mark. Through their passages, which are narrated by the third person, the reader learns that the whole world is watching and waiting patiently to see if Mark will be saved. I found it interesting reading the novel from a perspective other than Mark’s. It made me feel as if I were actually at NASA, waiting to see if the various plans to save Mark would be successful.

For those of you who aren’t too fond of science (take me for example), fear not- “The Martian” is written in a way that both appeases those science lovers and makes it easy for non-science people to understand. Basically, our narrator will introduce a seemingly difficult topic and then dumb it down in a really humorous way. Trust me, if someone, like me, who doesn’t excel in science can grasp the ideas brought up, than anyone can.

Also, Weir is an incredible writer. He adds so much humor and wit that you can’t help but keep reading. If you plan on reading “The Martian,” designate a certain amount of time towards it because you’ll probably find yourself slacking in other obligations as you’re too busy reading.

I would recommend this book to everyone, regardless of whether or not science fiction is a genre they like. “The Martian” delves into the psychological aspect of being left alone on a deserted planet and shares the story of the race for survival. Overall, this was an incredible, well-written novel that everyone should read.