Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Mark Watney has been left behind on Mars. Oops. These things happen. The only thing left to do is survive and try to come up with a plan to get off the planet. This is all revealed on page one. The rest of the book deals with Watney’s survival and NASA’s plans to get him back.
Man vs. Nature stories are nothing new, but we’re dealing with a whole new level of Nature here. Mars. This allows uber-nerd Weir to delve deep into his knowledge of all things Space to come up with a unique take on an old plot. A majority of the story is told in the form of log entries by Mark Watney as he recounts his efforts to stay alive and not accidentally kill himself on the unforgiving planet. The log entries are counterbalanced by a real-time third person narrative of the efforts of NASA and JPL to get their astronaut back home. Weir gets the mix right. The log entries can get a bit dry at times , but are packed full of science and humor which works really well. There are also a few bird’s eye view of Mars chapters as Weir describes what’s going on with the planet. They are necessary pieces that seem a bit out of place with the general narrative style, but Weir handles them as well as can be expected. And really, Mars can be considered the antagonist so why not check up on what’s happening with it and its attempts to make Watney not alive.
It is not often that I can say the movie is better than the book, but that is true in the case of “The Martian”. What is even more amazing is the book is pretty darn good. The movie very deftly cuts much of the problem parts of the book out completely while still keeping the book’s smarts and humor. I would have much preferred to see the book’s ending in the movie than the Hollywood ending they went with and I was very happy that the book didn’t have the movie’s ending as I worried about when I did the movie review. You should both see the movie and read the book. They are both worth your time and each has its unique charm.