I had never heard of The Martian by Andy Weir before I started seeing trailers for the movie adaptation. I have not seen the movie because, as I have mentioned before, I have a personal policy regarding books and adaptations. If you have not read it before, it is that if I know that a movie was a book before, I will always read the book before I allow myself to watch the movie. Sometimes I do not know that a movie was a book, such as Love, Rosie—a film I watched on the plane on my overseas trip last year—so I do see the movie first on occasion. However, when that happens, I will make a point of reading the novel afterwards. The only time that gets hard is when I did not enjoy the film.
That said, it is time we get back on track with The Martian. The concept of this novel is simple: after a disaster on a mission to Mars, the Ares 3 crew leaves one of their own, Mark Watney, behind believing he died during the disaster.
I thought before I read this book that it was an interesting concept. I remember reading survival stories growing up, like Robinson Crusoe, but none of them were quite like this. More often than not, the survival stories I have experience with, the reader only ever gets the perspective of the person who is trying to survive. Thus, do we know if anyone is actively looking for the person trying to survive? Does anyone care?
The Martian is different. Yes, we get Mark Watney’s perspective about how he is trying to survive on Mars. We also get to see what people on Earth (NASA) are doing in reaction to finding out he survived. Finally, we see how the rest of his mission crew are doing on their way back to Earth. The most important thing in this novel, I think, is how we truly get to see how much people will come together in critical moments to save a life. When it comes down to it, this book shows that most people have that basic instinct to help other people.
The writing itself is not particularly flowery or incredibly detailed, however I think that the succinct writing fits in this case. The style is mostly entries in Mark Watney’s log. It is not quite clear whether it is an audio recording or he is writing in on a computer, although I get the impression he is writing it. I say this because I think it would read differently if he was recording himself. It could still technically be audio, but then I would say that the style does not quite fit for the story. Thus, I assume it is a written account. Moving on now though, the succinct nature is what works for these logs.
Obviously, I have never been stranded like that, but I would try to be succinct with my words. Well, I think I would be at least. My point though, is you do not need a lot of description in a survival story beyond what the individual or group is doing to survive. Andy Weir clearly understands this, and works with that in The Martian. There is a good balance between what is happening around Mark, but the focus mainly remains on him. When the story is not in his perspective, it focuses on the people working to rescue him rather than their surroundings like what the city looks like or other elements. The description is basic and it works.
I highly recommend reading The Martian. It is, to put it simply, a modern day survival tale showing the best aspects of humanity. When they find out Mark is alive, it is a little piece of hope—the story shows just how powerful hope can be.
Let me know what you think of the story should you choose to read it.
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: originally self-publisher, then published by Crown Publishing Group (subsidiary of Penguin Random House)