Wow, okay, I realized after reading this that I really have no survival skills and that I would be that person who would be the first to die in Lost. I can barely get myself to Chinatown without Google Maps, so imagine me trying to navigate Mars’ desolate landscape by myself. No, thanks. However, that’s the exact situation Mark Watney finds himself in after an accident leaves him stranded on Mars without any means of communicating to NASA that he’s actually alive.Of course, everyone eventually realizes he’s alive, but then the problem turns to how they can keep him alive until the next mission – in four years.
I’m going to be honest here – a lot of the science and numbers went over my head, but it didn’t detract at all from enjoying the book. If anything, I’m impressed by the lengths that Weir went to in his research, and all the fine details make Mark’s seemingly impossible odds of survival even more real. The writing is fantastic – Weir does a great job balancing the silence and loneliness of Mark’s life on Mars with the frenetic events on the ground as NASA’s scientists scramble to figure out a way of getting him home. Every time something went wrong (and believe me, a lot of things explode and break in this book), I actually felt anxious for Mark since his survival relied so heavily on scarce resources and time.
I also enjoyed the different narratives that followed the activities down on Earth and the rest of the Mars crew. From Mark’s resourcefulness and quick wit to the scientists’ dedication and sleepless nights, it’s encouraging to see all of the hard work and effort that everyone put into rescuing one man. Everyone is just so smart in the book, and it’s a really refreshing read for someone like me who reads a lot of young adult/fantasy books where everyone makes the worst decision possible.
Ultimately though, I think what I enjoyed most about The Martian was Mark Watney himself. He’s charming, a bit of a smart-ass, and almost annoyingly optimistic about his predicament, but I really, really liked that. After all, when you’re stuck alone on a planet for four years, you’re really just left with two choices. You could either wallow in the hopelessness of your situation, or you can fight for survival. I personally found Mark to be resourceful, brave, and above all, resilient and tenacious, and those are the qualities I like seeing in others. In fact, the same is true for everyone in the book. The Martian follows one man’s individual fight for survival, but it’s also important to see that Mark leans on his supports as much as he relies on himself. It is a bit of a long read (~369 pages!) and does get bogged down in numbers and scientific details, but the plot moves quickly and keeps you on the edge of your seat to find out what’s gonna happen next. And trust me, the last 30 pages or so pays off, and the ending is so satisfying.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5. The science gets heavy at times, but Mark is worth sticking around for.