Did you finish reading The Martian in time for its big screen debut tomorrow night? Our own Greg Alston got to see it early, and he loved it (check out his review here), and now it’s time to discuss the book! If you haven’t finished yet, steer clear-spoilers ahead!
I have been unabashed in discussing how much I adored this book from start to finish, and I think I’ve convinced several people to run out and buy their own copy. It’s rare for a book to be so scientifically grounded and still be laugh out loud funny, but somehow The Martian manages to walk that line. What I really loved, though, was how Andy Weir made sure to craft the issues Mark Watney faced as realistic as possible. He didn’t want a bunch of deus ex machina fixes, and he didn’t want it to be a case of Mars’ most unlucky resident. Yes, this shaped the science and keeps it grounded, but it also means you aren’t groaning at silly plot holes.
Here’s an example of what I mean: I love the book The Andromeda Strain, but it’s a perfect example of how unrealistic situations are used to drive conflict instead of the actual science. At the start of the book, the conflict is set in motion because a small town opens a mysterious satellite and unleashes an alien plague that kills almost everyone. That’s fairly realistic, and sets an “oh crap, I can almost imagine this happening” vibe. Then, about halfway through the book, one of the scientists working on the virus has an epiphany about how to address it…and then he promptly has an epileptic seizure and forgets his epiphany. It’s dramatic, for sure, but it’s also a ridiculous plot twist thrown in to stretch out the suspense. It would be like Mark Watney having to delay his journey to the MAV because he had an asthma attack.
The only part of the book I felt comfortable predicting was that the Hermes crew would rescue Mark (it just didn’t seem likely he’d die at the end), but the combination of “sciencing the shit out of this” and the consistently ramping tensions made the book exciting up until the very end. I would have loved to follow Mark further, but I think it ended at a good point, even if I didn’t need to think that hard about how stinky he was!