This is a story about an astronaut named Mark Watney who is accidentally left behind on Mars after his crew believes he is killed during the emergency evacuation of their base camp on Mars (I know I already said Mars, but omg Mars) in a freak windstorm. Our hero has to figure out how to survive with his available resources, ration his remaining supplies, and try to get back in contact with Earth, knowing that his food will run out before they can rescue him. The author, Andy Weir, studies engineering, orbital mechanics, and relativity as a hobby (and, apparently, he knows quite a bit about botany as well), and he’s a self-proclaimed interplanetary travel geek, so the story is actually realistic and scientifically accurate. It’s a science fiction book that is FULL OF SCIENCE. IT IS THE BEST. I have to add a disclaimer that I’m totally geeky about this shit, but I love this book so much I’M GOING TO MARRY IT.
And perhaps my disclaimer is unnecessary, because I’m not the only one who loves it– The Martian is doing really well. Weir originally posted the story in installments on his website for free, and only put it into Kindle form at his fans’ requests. He was amazed that people would pay for it when it was available online, but since then he’s had a best-selling novel and a movie deal. It’s set to release next year, apparently starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott (because of course). So it’s not like I’m a lone Mars freak singing his praises here.
The Martian is a lot more entertaining and hilarious than “one guy stranded on Mars” makes it sound. Watney’s story is peppered with victories and setbacks large and small, and it’s exciting and fascinating to read along. First of all, he has to figure out a way to eat, so he starts growing potatoes inside his little house on Mars. (!!!) He’s also desperate for entertainment and raids his crew mates’ audio files, and finds out with dismay that his commander brought along a lifetime supply of disco.
I hope to Godtopus they incorporate that into the film. Wouldn’t it just be the best ever to see Matt Damon alone on Mars, lip-synching to “Emotion” by Samantha Sang and the Bee Gees about how there’ll be nobody left in [that] world to hold him tight? Nobody left in [that] world to kiss goodnight? I NEED THAT SCENE.
(Full disclosure, “Emotion” is my favorite song of the month.)
I love the idea of this book so much, and the execution even more. I’m serious, The Martian is right up there with To Say Nothing of the Dog for favorite book of the year. I love the technical aspect, I love the humor, the last chapter is damned exciting, and it’s SET ON MARS, you guys, and there are Mars potato crops and Mars road trips and Mars construction projects and I want to be an astronaut. Who’s up for some interplanetary travel with me? Come on, it’ll be so rad. I’ll even stop listening to disco.
And believe it or not, a story about a stranded astronaut can not only be thrilling and funny, but actually very heart-warming and celebratory of the human spirit, as well. Now you think I’m just bullshitting you, right? But listen: if you like Cosmos, or Interstellar, or would be interested in a mash-up episode of Doctor Who and MacGyver, you should definitely read this book.
And then we can all go see the movie together, if the trip to terraform Mars doesn’t pan out.
Happy new year, everybody. It’s been great, sharing books with you! 😀