(Warning: There are three words of profanity in the following post)
Okay, so I cheated. It’s not a huge deal but I broke my own rule and is it awful that I don’t feel bad about it?
Let me back up a bit.
I don’t get out much. Why go pay to see a movie I may not enjoy when I could read the book it’s based on for free? Besides, aren’t the books supposed to be better anyway?
Thus began the rule that I must read the book before seeing the movie. If I see the movie before, I probably won’t read the book at all.
I’ve broken this rule three times in my life with:
- The Bourne Identity
- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
and now, The Martian. In these cases, I read the books soon after I saw the movie, and it was usually a struggle since the reading the books take more time and I already know what’s going to happen.
The Martian was different.
If you’re looking for a sign to go read or watch the movie, this is it. The Martian is the best movie I’ve seen all year (yes, that includes Avengers: Age of Ultron). Plus, the movie, directed by Ridley Scott, is so close to the book, you’re not really missing out. I enjoyed reading the book because it gave me even more details of hilarity.
So what is The Martian about?
Written by Andy Weir, the book begins in the year 2035, NASA’s Ares III crew is on a manned mission to Mars. They’ve landed and are doing routine collection and repairs when a dust storm, so severe it tips their shuttle Hermes, hits. They need to evacuate immediately.
They’re all trailing back to the ship when a piece of debris (antenna from the communications unit) pierces the astronaut, Mark Watney’s, suit and sends him flying backward, out of view.
The commander of the crew, Melissa Lewis, orders the rest of the crew into the shuttle before going back to search for Watney. Inside the shuttle, the rest of the crew members (Dr. Chris Beck, Beth Johanssen, and Dr. Alex Vogel) aid in the search for Watney, but the telemetry readings from his suit give no signs of life or pressure.
The pilot of the shuttle, Major Rick Martinez, keeps the shuttle upright as long as he can but before long, they need to blast off. The crew of six has turned into a crew of five as they begin the long journey back to Earth.
The rest of the book is the crew and Earth mourning Watney.
How boring would that be?
Turns out, Watney is still alive. He wakes up long after the storm and his crew are gone, hustles himself to their makeshift base and stitches his wounds. He takes to the log in the Habitat and records,
I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.
If that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of piece, I’m not sure what else does. Watney begins rationing his food to last until the next Mars mission (it won’t be for years), even growing potatoes on Mars (He’s a botanist!), repairs the communications with Earth, and generally just tries to stay alive despite all the mess Mars throws at him.
Plus, he uses a lot of duct tape. Like a lot.
The book (and movie) throws a lot of science at you but it’s enjoyable because it does so with layers and layers of humor. I wish I laughed as much during AP Chemistry (sadly, there was only pain there).
Even though it’s pretty depressing and downright boring to be the only person on an entire planet, Watney finds a way to kill time in between being avoiding death from Mars and finding a way back home. Here’s one example, during one of his scouting missions for the next Mars site:
LOG ENTRY: SOL 381 I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.
Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.
There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.
So Mars is “international waters.”
NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.
Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.
That makes me a pirate!
A space pirate!”
One of the many gems you have to look forward to if you watch or read The Martian. So, as for me, is it a “yay” or “nay” for the book and movie?
In terms of scientific accuracy, humor, ’70s soundtrack, and even a tug on the old heartstrings, definitely two thumbs up.