Side effects of finishing this novel:
The longing to be cool enough to find humor in the midst of certain death (or at least in a less than pleasant situation like standing in a torrential downpour since who really wants to be placed in a dangerous and life-threatening position), excitement in learning smart “space words” (e.g. EVA, the Hab, the MAV, RTG, etc.), coupled with extreme amusement and self-assurance in learning that NASA astronauts (or in this case fictional ones) still use well-placed profanity and invent fun layman terms and definitions like “space pirate”, “Martian coffee”, and “pirate ninja”. Astronauts: they’re just like us!
This book was so good they made it into a movie starring Matt Damon and other famous people and it was nominated for an Oscar. So. If that doesn’t exemplify that this novel has at least a modicum of great storytelling then not quite sure how else to encourage you to get yourself to a library and check it out.
Only slightly spoilery synopsis:
Mark Watney (i.e. Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars. The mission that sent him and his crew (dubbed Ares 3 – another example of a neat space term you’ll learn) failed within six days due to a catastrophic dust storm. He’s presumed dead and his crew evacuate per protocol. He has no way to contact Earth, limited supplies to survive, no spaceship, a superfluous amount of damaged equipment, and only disco music and 70s sitcoms for entertainment. The horror. Fortunately this isn’t Cast Away, it’s The Martian by Andy Weir. He doesn’t have to teach himself how to survive nor does he slap his bloodied hand on a ball and start talking to it like it’s his best friend. Watney, a highly intelligent botanist and engineer turned astronaut, has a wealth of knowledge about surviving outside planet Earth. He’s no Bear Grylls but he makes science look, for lack of a better word, cool. Equipped with his scientific knowledge, expletives, and hilarious observations about his situation, Watney manages to grow food on Mars’ hostile environment, executes an extremely dangerous and slightly insane mission to contact NASA, and refuses to give up on any semblance of hope. Paralleling Watney’s log reports is the story of those back on earth at NASA who race against the clock to save Watney before time runs out.
Personal Concluding Remarks:
Nerd or not, most people will enjoy this geek survivalist story, as at its core, it is a celebration of human resilience and innovation. You can’t help but root for Watney and his sanity-saving humor. Those who need their drama will get it (the ending especially will leave most emotionally-in-touch humans tearfully satisfied), those who need their comedy will get it (see below quotes), those who need their adventure will get it (he pulls an antenna out of his chest!), and those who need their intellectual-know-how will get it (bravo to Weir’s meticulous amount of research – it made this extremely non-boring for the non-scientifically driven minds). Overall a charming tale about a smart, funny, and at times reckless guy stuck on another planet.
“Half-ration for dinner. All I accomplished today was thinking up a plan that’ll kill me, and that doesn’t take much energy.”
“Yeah. This all sounds like a great idea with no chance of catastrophic failure. That was sarcasm, by the way. Well, off I go.”
Teddy: “What must it be like?” he pondered. “He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?…I wonder what he’s thinking right now?” Watney: “How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
“They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonized’ it. So technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!”
“I got bounced around a lot, but I’m a well-honed machine in times of crisis. As soon as the rover toppled, I curled into a ball and cowered. That’s the kind of action hero I am.”
For Fans of:
Written by: Elise Cantini, winner of her 6th grade class’s Read-A-holic award (now many years later, the addiction continues)