Andy Weir’s The Martian is an expertly crafted and researched tale of scientific marvel and triumph. It tells the story of Mark Watney with passion, detail and complete confidence, so much so that it casually blurs the line between fiction and reality. This is a story that seems tangible and actual.
The Martian finds NASA astronaut and botanist Mark Watney stranded on the unforgivable planet of Mars after his team is forced into an emergency evacuation. Watney has to call on his botany skills and his wicked intellect to prolong his time on Mars and fight the odds to contact NASA. Help is millions of miles away.
Watney is the central character. He’s sarcastic, he’s witty, he’s quick and most importantly he embodies all that is right with humanity. That is The Martian’s greatest triumph. You champion Watney, you cheer his every move and you smile when he thinks of home.
Weir is meticulous and rabid in the detail he infuses into Watney’s predicament. Watney is constantly tinkering, updating, fathoming and surviving. The sheer amount of detail The Martian packs into its pages doesn’t seem possible but Weir delivers something that always seems fresh, despite the monotonous crank of spanners and science.
Weir’s enthusiasm and love for science and math actually manages to summon a sense of wonder again. It awakens your imagination and actually makes us look to the stars.
Having said that, despair and loss is never far from the surface. Weir, much like his central protagonist Watney, tries to paper over the cracks with laughs and pop culture references, but the impending end gnaws at you consistently. One feels the hours and days and months that Watney spends on Mars. His problems and predicaments are amplified and repetitive. The gruelling and scavenging life of being a sole survivor is haunting yet uplifting.
The Martian is silently important. Weir may have written the novel to show how one man can believe in himself to a point where being millions of miles from help is only one obstacle. But what The Martian ultimately is, is a light on humanity. It brings together nations in its narrative, it brings together genders, it brings together ages and it brings together the entire human race. As everyone on Earth becomes invested in Watney’s plight, you feel a surge of support and aid flowing towards NASA and Watney.
At times Weir indulges the science and maths too often without explaining core ideals for a general readership more clearly but he clearly respects the intellect of his readers.
The Martian is hilarious, important and uplifting. The characters are empathetic, relatable and oh so real. The story is an age old one but one that also reminds us of our duty as human beings. One can’t undervalue how important this story actually is. Yes it makes you laugh and yes it makes you believe. But at its core, it is a page-turner that leaves you a better humanitarian and person.
Score – ★★★★ ½