Book Club: The Martian Review

“It’s like MacGyver….on Mars!”

“It’s like The Hatchet… on Mars!”

“It’s like Castaway…ON MARS!”

In my attempts to get other people to read The Martian over the past few weeks, these tend to be my statements- some standard reference followed up with “on Mars!” Because the world should know by now that I’m a sucker for anything involving space.

Rather than giving you a slightly more detailed summary for those who didn’t read the book, I’ll share the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation.

Can you say, “amazing cast?” Jessica Chastain has won my heart and should be in all space related moves.

Back to the book…

Even though it could have gone a dark route and indeed been much more like Castaway in dealing with the struggles of human isolation, Andy Weir took this book in a comical direction. Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is nothing like the actor’s Interstellar counterpart. He takes isolation and the stress of survival in stride. While never happy about being abandoned on the Red Planet, he deals with his difficulties by cracking jokes. Thus, you as a reader will find the monotony of several hundred days stuck millions of miles from earth drastically less tedious than our intrepid hero. Well, that and you also get to read about what’s going on at NASA and with the rest of his crew. It’s not all red dirt.

One of my favorite parts of this book was how well it was thought out. There is a “why” to nearly everything that happens, as opposed to simply happening for the sake of plot. For example, why does Mark react to his personal wasteland experience with humor? Why does he know how to grow food? How can he fix all this junk in space? The answers to these are all the reasons he was selected for this mission to Mars. His personality was deemed needed for crew morale by the psychologists at NASA. He, and every other team member, had multiple areas of study, so as to increase the amount of work accomplished by fewer people. I never felt like I read something and thought, “How convenient.” Weir took the time to make this universe seem real to me.

While I find that to be a strength, I will admit it may be a weakness for others. Warning: This book is very technical. It’s filled with a ton of science talk and he will spend pages talking to you about things like the chemical approach of converting rocket fuel into water. While some may enjoy this because, one, that’s insanely cool, and two, they appreciate the dedication to accuracy, there may be others who could find those parts a little dry and hard to get through. Mark is a wonderful narrator of his story, but at the end of the day, if you don’t care about the process of creating farmable soil, you might just want to wait for the movie.

It should be noted that one of my favorite things about this book was how effortlessly diverse its characters were. Weir fills his story with women and people of color who are given real roles. Instead of saying, “Why should I have to make this character Indian or Hispanic?” or, “Why does there have to be so many women?” there just are. Why on earth (or Mars) shouldn’t there be more types of people? The answer is it’s 2015 and this should be how we build our universes.

This story was killed with suspense, humor, raw human emotion, and hope. Not just in one man’s ability to survive, but in humanity’s ability to care about the life of another. While we are constantly surrounded by the stories of a post apocalyptic future, I much prefer the one presented by Weir. It felt like a future that is not only in reach, but also one that I want to live in.

Reminder: Rebecca’s Book Club’s next read, two weeks from today, will be Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Go check it out before then!