Meet Mark Watney, a botanist and a mechanical engineer, the fourteenth man to set foot on Mars’ soil and the first man to be stranded there, 140 million miles from Earth.
In the not-so-distant future NASA sent six astronauts to Mars with the crew and mission being called the Ares 3. The plan is only to stay for 6 days for research and experiments but some unforeseen events happened causing Mark to be separated from his crew. The book follows how he’s supposed to be “six days into what should be the greatest two months of [his] life” became a nightmare.
It was never the intention of his crew mates in Ares 3 to left him in Mars and it was tough decision the team commander has to make. An unexpected strong sandstorm hit their base and on their evacuation Mark was hit by a strong wind and debris that blows him off his feet and was thought to be dead. Mark wakes up alone and millions of miles away from Earth and he has to figure out a way to survive.
All that’s left for Mark to work for are two rovers, the team’s hab(itat), food that will only last him for 50 days, 300 liters of water, potatoes (which they are supposed to serve during Thanksgiving) and the promise of the next mission, Ares 4, Whiich will arrive in four years. Air, water and communication also became a problem for him. The air regulators and water reclaimers are only meant to work for a couple of months the most. And communication? It’s farfetch.
Mark’s ingenuity and desperate efforts though enabled him to make ways to survive. The food that is available won’t last him for even a year but because he’s a botanist, he was able to grow potatoes using his limited resources (even using he’s “own” resources for that matter). He made his own plan, devising ways and means to extend his crops to enable him to stay alive. The air regulators and water reclaimers are only meant to work for a couple of months the most but he was able to make it work. The issue with communicating to Earth also became a one of Mark’s biggest problem but, yes, Mark was able to eventually connect to Earth. How the main character did all that, his journeys and everything that happened in between is what made the book a very exciting read.
Majority of the pages are nothing but calculations and assumptions of how Mark survives. The book revolves around mathematics and physics interplay that worked well with the plot. From working with Martian soil to grow crops, making water from carbon dioxide to using water in creating rocket fuel. The book is written genuinely and creatively.
I like the main character the author created. Despite everything that happens, he never bow down and still manages to crack up jokes and be cool under pressure. Mark Watney is a very likable character. He’s clever with the just right amount of angst. He’s not afraid to do what he believes is right and to even defy authorities if he believes that doing so will make things easier for him. He’s an analytic thinker and always fix problems bit by bit and gives justifications to everything he does. He’s calm and compose despite the tension throughout the book compared to other thriller books that has a lot of dramas. Though I would much prefer if the author could’ve at least made Mark a dynamic character by providing the readers with Mark’s emotional state and not just occasional panic or loneliness.
I also like how the pacing went with the book until the conclusion at the end. This book is indeed unputdownable and totally entertaining. What I also like is how the book made me so engaged. There are always twists when I think Mark’s situation is already stable as new problems arise and that’s also one of the reason why, I believe, I finished this book.
Majority of the book is told through Mark’s logs, detailing everything that’s happening to him and what he’s doing. While the other part of the book is told through a third person perspective of the people at NASA and his crew mates. I must say that the author put a great amount of good research about his novel. It’s very apparent with how the problems are revealed and how the main character solved each problem by the experiments that he make. I can’t just imagine the amount of work and effort he put for this book to be published. The book has topics of several fields of science that ranges from chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics, nutrition and engineering. I also like how he was able to describe Mars down until the smallest details that it made me feel that I have already been there.
It took me sometime though to finish the book because aside from not being a fan of hard science fiction I was a bit intimidated with the amount of information the author is throwing at my face during the first couple of chapters. But as I go deeper reading it, I got used to the style of writing and I found myself enjoying it more and more. One of the primary reasons, I believe, why I eventually enjoyed and finished it is because, aside from like you are reading a book about how to survive in Mars, the author incorporated humor in the book. I found myself laughing a couple of times. Mark always crack jokes about his solitary life in Mars and when I reached the end I realized that I want to read more about him. It has a lot of technical depth and accurate details, yes, but the author was able to make it appear light by interspersing it with the main characters’ humor.
Here are some of it:
“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian
“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian
“Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian
Aside from Mark, the author was also able to create a diverse group of secondary characters from the people at NASA to Mark’s crew mates heading back to Earth. Those parts of the book is where there’s drama as each try to resolve failures as they try to save Watney and deal with the media and the government that nags them to do something. I can’t help but praise the people who works at NASA for their devotion to deepen man’s grip on space exploration.
The book also gave me an overview as to how NASA really works as it covers discussions about the selection of crews, funding of their missions, its political and social struggles and organizational dilemmas.
Overall, it’s a valuable read.
4 stars out of 5.