The Mar­tian

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BOOK REVIEW - By Clau­dia Elei­box

You may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some dif­fi­cul­ties in life but you're cer­tainly not stranded on Mars. And if you were, I don't think you would be as re­source­ful, in­ge­nious or as cyn­i­cal as Mark Wat­ney. I most def­i­nitely wouldn't.

Learn­ing that the au­thor Andy Weir is a “Doc­tor Who” fan com­pletely sold “The Mar­tian” for me al­though I kept won­der­ing, what could pos­si­bly hap­pen on Mars that some­one could write an en­tire book and, bet­ter yet, have Hol­ly­wood pro­duce it star­ring Matt Da­mon. It was a burn­ing cu­rios­ity and I could do one of two things: com­mit the ul­ti­mate crime and watch the movie be­fore read­ing the book, or read the book. Of course, I be­gan read­ing, and was dis­ap­point­edly sur­prised.

I laboured through 42 Sols (a Mar­tian day) and five chap­ters with Mark Wat­ney, the sixth man to walk on Mars and the only one left be­hind af­ter a storm causes him to be sep­a­rated from his Ares 3 crew on Sol 6. It also de­stroys all his means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the crew or Earth. “The Mar­tian” is an ac­count of Mark's life af­ter his “death” on Mars and in the first sen­tence he is al­ready swear­ing. Well any­one would be, be­ing alone on Mars and all. But as al­ways, af­ter a short pan­icky pe­riod, Mark gets him­self to­gether, thinks of a sur­vival strat­egy and ex­plains how he ac­tu­ally sur­vived the storm. He also ex­plains all the as­tro­naut, space and NASA terms and gives mul­ti­ple science, me­chanic and botany lessons along the way.

Af­ter he makes a com­fort­able home for him­self in the Hab (a tem­po­rary, oxy­genated liv­ing space filled with sup­plies, that's sent to Mars be­fore the mis­sion crew ar­rives), Mark cal­cu­lates how many sup­plies he has and re­alises he will not have enough food to last un­til the next mis­sion, Ares 4, ar­rives. Ares 4 is his only chance of sur­vival and get­ting off Mars. Again, he comes up with a plan, us­ing his botany train­ing: he be­gins to plant food in­side the Hab.

That was about all Mark was try­ing to do, un­til Sol 42 when I al­most gave up on the book. Then Andy Weir com­pletely switched the mood of the novel to the point where I was let­ting out au­di­ble 'oohs', 'ahhs' and gasps. NASA finds out Wat­ney is alive! Al­though they can­not com­mu­ni­cate with him, the whole world is watch­ing Mark's bril­liant plan of sur­vival and they con­tinue to watch as he trav­els in his DIY space mo­bile to the left­overs of an old Mars mis­sion. Us­ing it, Mark finds a way to con­tact NASA and is fi­nally able to com­mu­ni­cate with Earth.

The book keeps get­ting bet­ter with the flip of ev­ery page. Life be­comes good on Mars: Mark's crops grow beau­ti­fully, he gets a lovely let­ter from his mother and one from the pres­i­dent, the chance of sur­vival is plau­si­ble, and NASA fi­nally lets the Ares 3 crew know he's alive. But then an­other storm hits. Even more of Mark's equip­ment is dam­aged and his life is threat­ened in a whole new way. Smack in the mid­dle of the book!

That's as far as I've read. I'm re­ally anx­ious to find out what hap­pens, and I hope you are too. Fol­low up on this re­view next week or, bet­ter still, grab your­self a copy from The bookYard to find out if Mark sur­vives.

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