Log Entry: Sol 6
So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.
If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next.
From the very first line of The Martian by Andy Weir, the protagonist’s glibness in the face of such threats as starvation, asphyxiation, and freezing to death is what made this such an enjoyable read and one of my absolute favorite books this year.
Not unlike my review of Ready Player One, the sheer geekiness and humor of this book kept me turning the pages, laughing out loud and glued to the unpredictable and often terrifying challenges that astronaut Mark Watney must face as the first human being ever to become stranded on Mars and his attempt to survive long enough – with limited supplies and a harsh environment that is constantly trying to kill him – until he can be rescued.
Weir, a self-professed ‘space nerd’ and software engineer, originally self-published The Martian online, making chapters available for free on his website to visitors as he completed them. Due to its popularity and requests from readers, he made the book available in Kindle form, until it was eventually picked up and published in ‘dead tree’ form by Crown Publishing Group.
Dubbed a ‘hard science fiction’ novel, The Martian was exhaustively researched and references only technology that actually exists today, albeit only slightly better versions of it. Therefore, the chemistry, physics and science behind every chapter has been confirmed by experts in those respective fields.
Sorry, no phasers set to stun or teleporation here.
Mark Watney – a Botanist and an Engineer – is the lowest ranked member of the Ares 3 crew, or as Mark would put it:
“The Ares Program. Mankind reaching out to Mars to send people to another planet for the very first time and expand the horizons of humanity blah, blah, blah.”
During a dangerous Martian sandstorm, subsequent mission abort and emergency evacuation of the planet, Mark is left behind when his crew believes him to be dead after he is shish-kabobed by a communications antenna and his EVA suit’s bio-readings go flat.
With no ability to communicate with Earth or his crew (thanks to the damage incurred during the storm), Mark must figure out a way to stay alive for nearly 4 years – when the Ares 4 crew is scheduled to land, over 3500 kilometers away – using supplies that were originally meant to last a crew of 6 for only 31 days.
What follows is a hilarious and gripping ‘Macgyver meets Castaway’ story of near death experiences, ingenious improvisation and resourcefulness that kept me guessing, and at no point was I able to accurately predict what Watney was going to face or do next in order to survive.
Buoying the story is Mark’s incredible humor and inner dialogue, which is shared with the reader in the form of daily log entries. Watney doubts that anyone will ever discover this log (considering the fact that they all think he’s dead), but continues to share his daily experiences and thoughts in what could only be described as geeky blog posts intended to be found long after he has starved to death or been killed by the harsh Martian environment.
The only spoiler that I will reveal in this review, is to confirm that Watney does eventually find a (ingenious) way to communicate with Earth. However, considering the travel distance between Earth and Mars, it’s not as though NASA can just prepare and send him a quick supply probe in time before his food is scheduled to run out. What happens beyond that, I’ll allow you to discover on your own.
I can’t recommend this book enough and was actually disappointed when I flipped the last page, because I was that entertained by it. It is also rare for a book to literally make me laugh out loud, and The Martian caused me to do so on multiple occasions.
Adding to my enjoyment was the fact that so much of the science and technology behind the book is accurate. Mark Watney is a character that I grew very fond of and felt his humor closely resembled my own, which endeared him to me even further.
Thankfully, Warner Brothers has optioned The Martian for a possible movie, and I would be thrilled to see this book come to the big screen. According to Weir, he has stated in interviews that he feels Bradley Cooper might be an interesting choice to play Watney and could properly portray Mark’s humor and personality.
I read the Kindle version of the book first, then listened to the Audiobook.
From my experience, reading the book was the best way to go in order to fully appreciate Mark’s humor and the way that the story can bounce around a little between Watney’s daily logs and NASA’s attempts to find a solution to rescue him.
However, I will say that the audiobook narration by R.C. Bray is excellent (despite the fact that his voice sounds a lot older than I imagined Watney’s voice to be in my head), and was one of the better narrations I have heard in an audiobook. Bray was able to do justice to Watney’s sarcasm and wit, while also being able to deftly handle a handful of different accents and character voices.
Therefore, my recommendation is to read the book first, then enjoy it all over again in audiobook format!
About the Author
Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.