I have my (amazing) boyfriend to thank for the introduction to The Martian by Andy Weir. The manner in which he sucked me into the book was somewhat cruel, however, as he played the first minute of the audio book format he had downloaded but then left me hanging. Who does that? He knew that there was no way I could not be sucked into a book where “I’m pretty much f**cked” is the opening sentence.
Candid profanity and boyfriend cruelty aside, this story was immensely enjoyable start to finish. The author, Andy Weir, introduces scientific jargon and methodology that was believable* and understandable to laymen (pirate-ninja may be my new unit of measurement for anything outlandish and immeasurable!) while also portraying the main character Mark Watney as behaving and speaking in manner that I would expect from someone in this day and age. The dialogues between Mark and NASA personnel later on in the book are a perfect example of this. The excerpt below occurs when NASA comments on Mark’s planned cut he has to make to the top of one of the rover vehicles by drilling many, many small holes:
[11:49] JPL (aka NASA): What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We’re assuming the other side is identical. You’re cleared to start drilling.
[12:07] Watney: That’s what she said.
[12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?
There is also a “giggle out loud” moment where Mark laments the effects avoiding a windstorm has caused to his attempt to travel to a potential rescue site 3,200 km away. To outrun the storm and keep his solar panels recharging as efficiently as possible, he ends up having to travel due south (vs the desired direct south-west route) and since “Pythagoras is a dick” makes 90km progress in one sol (Martian day) but only 37 km closer to his final destination. Thanks, mathematics.
This novel is wonderful example of human ingenuity in life and death situations but also highlights the sacrifices one human being would make for another. The crew that had been part of the mission with Mark in the beginning, and who safely get off the planet, decide to sacrifice years of their lives by changing course en route for Earth to return to Mars on a rescue mission (no warp speed travel in this book!) that could possibly cost them everything.
I would have liked for the ending (spoiler alert!) to be Mark and the rest of the crew’s triumphant return to Earth amid much fanfare, balloons, and confetti. The man survived on Mars for goodness sake! Doesn’t that deserve an epilogue at the least?
My only other disappointment was that the “green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars” was not a significant plot twist but a glib joke mention in only one place. I say disappointment because same said- amazing boyfriend that introduced me to the book, led me to think this was going to be a character of interest. I was let-down a bit to think this novel might head down the all to stereotypical Mars sci-fi path when it held such promise but then I was disappointment in myself for being gullible after I read the one mention of the Queen in the book. Probably a good thing my boyfriend and I don’t keep a gullibility score card…
All I can say at this point is if you are sci-fi geek, science geek or just everyday nerdy, read this book. Get the pure, untainted plot before the movie is released in October of this year and we see if once again Hollywood take a perfectly good story and “makes it better” to the point of being barely recognizable and full of unnecessary crap…pointing to you Peter Jackson and your Hobbit movie trilogy!
* Post Note- I say this book has scientific jargon and methodology that is believable, not that it is scientifically proven or accounts for every other know nuance of information we have on Mars, the sciences and engineering. The author wrote an enjoyable story with a nod to the sciences, not a scientific manual. Fair warning if you want all the facts validated and published in some scientific article before you can enjoy the story.