Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Martian

Think of it … Matt Damon in space – on Mars, to be specific. Alone. A Robinson Crusoe stranded on a desert island without Friday. No food, no water. Jeez, now how frightening is that?

Andy Weir’s book, The Martian, opened in theaters yesterday in 3D. I may have to break my own theater-avoidance policy and go see this one. I’ve been waiting for it ever since I read the book and reviewed it in Book Boogie, which, by the way, was deleted a couple of days ago. 

In case you missed it, and want a preview of what it's all about, here’s the review: 
The Martian (Andy Weird) 

Botanist Mark Watney kept a diary – a log, actually – and it's a good thing he did, or we may never have found out how he became commander of Ares 3, the most recent of the Ares missions to Mars. Being as how Watney was the lowest-ranking crew member of the mission, the only way he could become commander was if he were the sole survivor. 

So, he's commander. Thanks to a wicked wind/sand storm six days into their month-long mission, the crew was ordered to abort and make their way over to the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) for their return to Earth. But an antenna breaks loose and knocks Watney to the ground. When he comes to, the MAV is gone. 

Lucky for him, the Hab is still intact and operational, but no dish, no antenna, no comm, and about a year of food for one man. Lots of med supplies, the oxygenator works, the water reclaimer works. He's okay for now, his job is to fix the comm, then stay alive until Ares 4 arrives in four years. 

Watney mixes Martian soil with some Earth soil he brought along for experiments (after all, he IS a botanist), then adds desiccated human waste to start its bacterial regeneration ("My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain"). Thankfully, peas and whole potatoes were included in the food supplies, and they're easily grown. 

A lot of numbers are thrown around, but the prose does not seem didactic in the least; it all seems necessary and it all makes sense. Watney proves that high school algebra can help one survive. Process wonks who watch How It's Made and How Do They Do It? on cable's Science Channel will enjoy his journal immensely. 

Meanwhile, the Ares 3 crew is 10 months from home, and back on Earth, NASA has had its memorial service for Watney. Ares 4 is being prepped, but first they need satellite image recon to see how much of the aborted mission equipment survived. After all, if they can reduce the number of pre-mission supply probes, they'll conserve funding for Ares 4 and 5. 

They discover that ... Good Lord! ... Watney's still there, alive and kicking. It causes an uproar, and NASA's single-minded focus then becomes to bring him home. Less than a third-way through the story (and with an incredible boost from all things, NASA's 1996-1997 Pathfinder mission) contact is made and communication commences. 

What an emotional time for NASA, the returning crew, Watney, and the reader. There's many a time during these chapters that I actually got choked up. But of course, you just know something dire is going to happen. And it does. More than once. 

Author Andy Weir originally self-published The Martian in 2012; it was picked up by Crown and republished in 2014. Twentieth Century Fox has optioned the film rights, and Matt Damon is scheduled to play Mark Watney.


casch said...

I loved the book! A great read. OK, I was (once upon a time) a science major so some of the stuff made sense, the rest, well, I comforted myself saying, "I don't remember this." At any rate, I did enjoy the book ~ after all, I am not really a science fiction aficionado but this was terrific. My ONLY faults with this book were: 1) Perhaps a bit too much "real science stuff" and
2) I wanted more at the end of the book. More.

Andy Weir must be a real life scientist, botanist, sci fi fan and definitely a great writer!

Craig Miyamoto said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed the book!