by Andy Weir
I had avoided buying this book for so long. I saw the film and enjoyed it so much, and that made me wary.
So many wonderful novels are turned into dreadful films. Great movies from mediocre novels are not so common – but it happens often enough! So, as I said, I avoided buying and reading The Martian until presented with the opportunity (at one of those ‘swap book’ places – in my case the local village hall) to acquire a copy at no cost. Half-way through and I could only wonder why I hesitated. And now I’m wondering what my reaction would have been if I’d read the book before watching the movie. Would I have considered The Martian a dreadful film?
As it happens, I don’t think so, because all the essential elements are there. Yet the book is so much better, the scientific stuff so much more detailed: chemistry, physics, botany, human physiology and the rest – it’s all there.
A brief summary will suffice for anyone who hasn’t either read the book or watched the movie: Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. His crew mates have left the planet thinking he is dead. However, Mark has nothing if not time on his hands and figures out a way to survive until the next Mars expedition is due to arrive. He cannibalises his equipment, manufactures water from its constituent parts and plants potatoes; he rebuilds a Rover with an extra battery and solar cells capable of recharging both, with the objective of travelling 3,200K to the next landing site. Meantime, NASA has discovered he is alive and is trying to find a way to bring him home. And, of course, they eventually have to tell his crew mates.
Being alone on an alien planet, with no atmosphere worth speaking of, is not without unforeseen dangers and Mark has many new challenges to overcome before he can rendezvous with his rescuers. The novel keeps us on tenterhooks until the very end when we discover IF, or HOW, he’s going to make it.
The Martian is one of those books where you think – wow! the problem is solved, only to uncover another problem that demands another solution, and another, and another ….. I think this book is a ‘must read’ for all space opera fans. Maybe Mark Watney is a bit too resourceful to be real, but it is great science fiction.