‘The Martian’ tells a science fiction survival story

Published Apr 2, 2014 at 6:02 am (Updated Mar 31, 2014 at 12:03 pm)

It’s the book that’s on the New York Times Best Seller List – “The Martian.” Combining realistic and science fiction, it tells of an astronaut named Mark Watney who was accidentally stranded on Mars. With no way to contact the people of Earth, who aren’t aware that he is alive, his only hope of survival is to somehow live on Mars for years until the next mission arrives. But with extremely limited supplies and machinery that wasn’t built to last that long, does he even have a chance? Is this book as good as everyone says?

The main hook of “The Martian” is its supposed to be accurate to real life. Author Andy Weir spent an extensive period of time researching everything that goes into a space mission in order to make Watney’s story as realistic as possible. In fact, quite a lot of the book consists of Mark saying how he plans to fix whatever technical disaster just happened. It’s more than just a simple, “I managed to fix it,” but instead a use of Mark’s astronaut training to increase his odds of survival. Problems with oxygen reclaimers, water supplies and airlocks happen on his journey, among many others. Good thing he was the engineer aboard the ship ...

Characterization in the book is really good. Mark is not simply a robot spitting out a list of survival techniques, but a sarcastic smart-alec who has no one but his log to talk to. His personality is very developed and he feels like a real person. Surprisingly, the book bait-and-switches the reader – for a good chunk of the book, the story is exclusively told through Watney’s log, and his crewmates are only mentioned in passing. After a certain point, more characters are introduced, including the crewmates and NASA workers who are dealing with the supposed loss of Watney. The crew members are really entertaining – specifically the German Vogel – but the NASA guys have pretty similar personalities. This sacrifice must be made, though, to have Mark so developed.

Apparently a movie adaptation of this book is being made. But can we keep it as one movie? Please? I hope that the filmmakers keep intact the elements that make “The Martian” special while not sacrificing any important details. “The Martian” is an eventful, sometimes uplifting, and above all realistic portrayal of how far a human can go before succumbing to the elements, and I recommend it.

Jeremy Farbman is a freshman at Mt. Lebanon High School.

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