Mars, Matt Damon, and Science
Let’s talk about The Martian by Andy Weir. I saw the trailer before reading the book, and read the book before watching the movie, so the only things I knew going in was from the trailer. Matt Damon gets left on Mars, must figure out how to feed himself and not die until rescue comes, and decides to “science the shit out of it.” And he does.
The book was an interesting read after the trailer. This is apparently what is called “hard” sci fi, so heavy on the science. Pages upon pages of science. It is apparently fairly accurate science. I wouldn’t know as I didn’t read all of it. I discovered I’m not a huge fan of hard sci fi! That’s okay though; it is a personal preference. If you like hard sci fi, I bet you’ll like The Martian.
It was in an interesting format, as the reader gets to listen in on the protagonist’s logs. I did enjoy all the personal flair given here, outside the science. Our hero is a smart ass, and he’s got nothing to lose since he’s stuck on Mars. I’d be in too bad of a mood or too dead for being funny if I was stuck on Mars, but perhaps that is why I’m not an astronaut.
I found it much better if I skipped the most technical stuff and slowed down for the people stuff. It did disappoint in this area some though, with a few conversations between characters occurring just to tell the reader what was happening with the science. I won’t give any spoilers, but it really bugged me when there was a daddy/daughter conversation and daughter astronaut decided to share a bunch of morbid planning details with her emotional dad. No daughter should EVER have this conversation with this dad.
Something I thought of after reading it was how many novels suffer from a protagonist that is just too good for the situation. They’re just the best fit for their disaster, even though they have no reason to be. Luck smiled upon us all when the otherwise boring low level accountant managed to rid the world of flesh-eating, alien squirrels! (Yes, I made that up.) The Martian does not fall into this category because we all know NASA would not send morons to Mars. The worst astronaut in space is still one of the most competent people on the planet. We can cheer when he throws science at it and wins, because even though it is a stretch, it is entirely believable he could win. We are not surprised the scientists on the ground figure out how to help him. We are not surprised when his crew wants to save him. We expect it from these people, because they are some of the best in the world. You and I would die on Mars, but these people might not, so we buy it.
Overall, I recommend the book if you like more science in your sci fi. You’ll likely love it. If you’ve never read sci fi, you should try it out and see what you think! If you don’t enjoy it, just know there are more sub-genres out there.
Onward and upward to the movie! The movie was definitely better than the book, in my opinion. There was all the cool stuff from the book with less of the science. There’s still plenty for him to “science the shit out of it” with, but it isn’t as overwhelming. There are also more personable moments, and the characters get a better resolution of their stories at the end. Anyone who likes action movies will probably enjoy The Martian film.
Questions for You!
Have you read this book and/or seen the movie? What did you think?
Would you travel to Mars?
What book(s) should I read next?