2011: The Martian (Part 1) – The Novel

The-Martian-book-coverI know that if I were ever stranded by myself on Mars I would for sure die. I know that if I were ever stranded by myself on Earth I would die. This fortunately puts me in the category of “not suited to be an astronaut”. I hope that one day with in my lifetime we will have drastically increased our space flight capabilities and I will be able to go as a tourist to the moon, but I’m fairly sure I will never visit Mars.

This is not the case for our protagonist, Mark Whatney. Not only is he suited to be an astronaut, he actually does get to visit Mars. He is not the first person to set foot on the dusty red planet, but he is the first person to be stranded there. After a violent storm leaves the crew thinking him dead and forced to abort the mission they leave him behind, and head back to earth. It just so happens that Whatney is a mechanical engineer and a botanist, both skills which he puts to good use on the planet. Immediately after realizing his situation, Whatney sets to work establishing and executing a survival plan. He utilizes every piece of equipment left behind, ever inch of usable area and every second he has to the utmost advantage. That is mostly where we differ. I procrastinate, I need my space, and I don’t have the mental capacity to be able to figure out a way to use everything around me to my benefit. This guy is not Tony Stark smart, or Reed Richards smart, but he is definitely smart. He’s probably more Spock smart. Or MacGuyver smart.

on marsThe novel switches back and forth between the daily journal of Whatney and the happenings on earth back at NASA, who have been using the satellites around Mars to watch Whatney. But not everything goes smoothly for the lone habitant, and it seemed like overtime I was about to put the book down something out of the blue would put Whatney at jeopardy, or Nasa would come up with a brilliant plan and would just have to keep reading.

I started the book while putting the kids I work with down for a nap on the Tuesday, (which I have recently discovered is a great time for reading) which continued into my break. I was instantly hooked. When I got home that night I read some more, and went to bed late after having gotten to the 1/4 mark. I was hoping to be able to push it like that for the rest of the week and finish before the weekend. My plan did not go as I expected. When I went to sleep at 2 AM the following day I had finished the book. Yep, I took every opportunity to blitz through that book, I just had to know what happened next. (I’m glad I got it done when I did because I spent the Thursday night throwing up and Friday sleeping…. Maybe my body couldn’t handle its awesomeness?)

This is also a rare example of a book that had me laughing, out loud, throughout it. I don’t often read for comedy (I’m not really a Deadpool fan, because it is a comedy book), but Andy Weir’s portrayal of Mark Whatney as a humorous, laugh in the face of death, character is expertly done.

The-MartianIn fact Andy Weir handles everything about the book expertly, flashbacks, instilling fear, explaining science to dullards such as myself. I remember reading The Andromeda Strain, and it just being paragraph after paragraph of science talk, which was ok, but there wasn’t enough story in that book to make it worth it. I am discovering that I really like this type of science fiction, a fiction based on technology we already have and is more set in a future maybe a few years away than an unachievable future. It’s nice to get away from the Mars’ of John Carter, J’on J’onzz and Marvin. This book convinced me even further that life on Mars is not entirely inconceivable. Their days are only 39 minutes longer than ours, and the temperature isn’t that much colder than earths ranging from -120 up to 0 celsius. And there is water on the planet. But with no atmosphere we would be living indoors or under huge domes.

This may be the first time that I will be going to see a movie that isn’t based off of comics, that I will have read the book for ahead of time. I am quite looking forward to the movie. I hope it does the book justice, and judging by the trailer, it just might. It’s got a star-studded cast with everyone from big name serious actors Matt Damon and Jeff Daniels to comedy regulars Kristen Wiig and Daniel Glover. Heading the film is director Ridley Scott, who has already made a name for himself in Science Fiction. This movie seems to have everything it needs in all the right places.

My soundtrack for this book was Sleeping At Last’s Atlas: Space 1 and 2 EP’s which I downloaded and put on repeat. Each of the 11 tracks is named after a body in our solar system (The 8 planets, the Sun, the Moon and Pluto) and, while they aren’t specifically about each planet, but the themes relate. It is easy listening when you are reading, and inspiringly poetic when you are listening to the words. Here is Mars:

Thanks for reading my blog, now go read The Martian if you haven’t already, and check out Sleeping At Last.

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