A lot has been said about The Martian, both the book and the film adaptation. When the movie came out last year, all I knew was that it was about a man who gets stranded on Mars by himself. After seeing the movie from last year, I was super impressed, and a couple of my friends told me I had to read the book. One of those friends mentioned that the book was far better, and that he didn't like the way the story was presented in the movie because it seemed to have less emphasis on the solo journey of the main character.
The story that was presented in the book was far superior then the movie. However, that didn’t make the movie's version of the story any less intense for me. In the book, the story is a little more in depth, as you realize the weight of everything Mark Watney (the main character) has to go through in more detail. Andy Weir’s incredible talent as an engineer allows him to write this story that really hones in on what a thinking mind would do to survive an inhospitable environment such as Mars. It really feels like he pulls from his background heavily in his writing, as he has an enormous emphasis on the details of what Mark is doing scientifically. Normally, this would be at detraction as it could confuse and muddle readers, getting lost in confusion Sci-Fi jargon. Here however, Weir expertly uses this to enhance his story, as his character Mark explains to a laymen what he is doing via his personal journal that he logs in. It’s through this journal that the majority of Mark Watney’s tale is told, but there are moments where Andy Wier shifts focus to either his crew in space, or NASA on Earth. These shifts in the story also come with a point of view change, shifting from a 1st person, to 3rd person view. These shifts often come before or after a major catastrophe occurs, and it really serves to put you into heightened suspense, as Mark Watney’s fate is always in question.
Speaking of Watney; he is easily one of the most likable, well written, and charismatic characters ever written in a Sci-Fi novel. Ever. His incredible ability to use his mind to persevere in such harsh conditions, makes him an underdog that anyone would instantly root for. He has a quick wit, and he also is fairly empathetic to the situations that cause him to be stranded alone on Mars in the first place. He never once puts any undue blame on anyone for his current predicament, and he’s god damn hilarious to boot. His constant cracks towards NASA, his crew, and Mars itself are all really funny and also make for this book to not be a very dark tale. It could have been: an isolated man on Mars curses the world, and is left to die in a stark harsh environment, with no outside help or care from the world. Instead, we get a tale of human perseverance and courage; also helping to unite humanity to his plight.
Even though this tale is about Watney’s journey to survive, as I mentioned before, it also has a great subplot featuring NASA and humanity on Earth, as well as Watney’s wayward crew aboard the space shuttle Hermes. Whether it’s NASA core planning chief, Business executive, PR Secretary, Telemetry specialist, flight leader, crew technician, or pilot: they all have a unique character with a mission to achieve. It’s an incredible melding of two philosophical schools of thought that have butted heads for centuries: indivualism vs collectivism. This theme of a philosophical catharsis runs not only deep within the characters, but also in Corporate and State entities as well. Mark Watney’s trials on Mars unite humanity in a common goal, and it’s an inspiring sight to envision.
When I come to my final thoughts on the book, I think it’s a must read. I think this even more because of what this book reminded me of: read the book after the movie- if you can. I totally understand the thoughts that many avid book readers like myself have on this: the book is always better than the movie, so it’s almost a disservice to the original if you don’t read it first. I get this to a certain degree, but I almost feel as if it’s a moot point as I think on it more and more. As long as we read the source material eventually, I think you get the full intensity of the book (ie. added imagery from the movie), and the enjoyment of the movie as you don’t have the expectations of the movie missing out on your favorite moments from the book. As with everything there are probably exceptions to the rule, but The Martian I believe succeeds as a book and a movie together, the movie just simply adding to the already great imagery the book inspires.