Sunday, April 26, 2015

Andy Weir - The Martian

I’m stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with Earth.
I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m screwed.

Comment: I got this book mainly because of the amount of positive reviews that are out there. I haven't read any with reading eyes, I just skimmed one or two and I got the vibe this book would make the reader feel happy and positive. I got curious considering the positive feedback it got and the prizes it won (although I don't pay much attention to this usually). So I've talked to a friend and we've agreed on buddy reading it. I'm so glad I wanted to try this one!

This is the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut in a mission to Mars, who suffered an accident there and got apart from his crew members. They went on to safety aboard a ship on Mars orbit and Mark was left behind because he was presumed dead.
But Mark has skills and after figuring out how much time he has before death is imminent, he sets himself to try his best to endure Mars while hoping for a miracle. His journey is one of bravery, intelligence, humor and hope, all things any human being needs to face adversity.

I absolutely loved this book!
No matter what happens from this day on, no matter how many books I'll read, I'm sure this one will remain one of my favorites of my 2015 reads.
This was refreshing, addictive, funny, teaching and I had a hard time putting it down. I was invested like crazy on Mark's journey and his fight against time and a planet to survive!

Just two notes to clarify any unsuspected reader that might be debating on whether to try this book: Well, rest assured this isn't one of those "doom days" books where Mark will faces aliens or meteors that might be his premature death. This is mostly a sci-fi story but more focused on Mark's actions to survive and how he keeps his sanity intact.
Also, this book has humor. Many readers might find this unlikely considering any psychological factors that could affect someone lost alone on Mars, but the thing is, for me, this works and I'll explain why.

The humor is the biggest weapon the author uses to turn this into an amazing story instead of just another sci-fi story full of technical - and boring - information/settings.
Poor Mark is apparently lost to humanity yes, but he manages to keep his bearings by writing down on his digital notebook and that is how we know what happens. We learn he is smart, funny and able to endure the fact he's alone, he might die and that he won't see anyone ever again. His biggest plans set on trying to grow some potatoes so he can have food for longer and after some pages where we know he is aware of his surroundings and his possibilities, he starts to clear his mind to think and he knows his best attempt on having any sort of controlled end doesn't rely only on the morphine he has to end things if it comes to a unbearable point, he wants to communicate, to let others know he's alive.

You see, people need others. We need to know others are out there. We watch tv to complement the fact we aren't surrounding by others all day or that we don't want to physically be in the presence of others. Mark is alone, the world thinks he's dead but he doesn't want to die without trying to communicate one last time, so he thinks of a way to send a message to his family, to Earth.
From this on, we see Mark learning things and facing the fact he might survive. After all, a new mission to Mars will arrive in a certain date. He just needs to survive until then.

I think this book really works well because Mark is shown as one of those people who can make a joke out of everything, he's a positive person, he doesn't let depression get the best of him and that's key to his survival. But he also manages this because he's had training, he may be only human but he's worked and trained and was chosen to be an astronaut for his skills and personality as much as his knowledge. I know I'm oversimplifying things, but Mark endures because he is like that.
His constant funny entries let us know what he is doing, what he wants, what he needs and how's he is. The humor sold me over, but without it the book would still be special.
My favorite funny part was when he realized he colonized Mars and his thoughts are:
"In your face, Neil Armstrong!"
 All in all, most of the book is meant to be focused on Mark but I think we, the reader, also learn a lot and here's a proof math might be as important in our life as said by math teachers. Mark is clever, witty and shows that in the face of the biggest adversity and improbable outcome, if we try, if we manage to clear our head and think, it's more likely we'll be successful. I think it's a good message to impart.

The book also shows how the NASA people here o Earth deal with things, how Mark's crew member and friends react and this all serves to give us an idea of how important Mark is. I can't know how correct some steps are if this was ever to happen, but the technical side of things, both from Earth, both from Mark's entries, give the book a feel of realism and truth that makes the story seem more believable.

Of course this is sci-fi speculation, imagination. No one is ready to actually walk on Mars, but considering all the impossibilities of nowadays makes this story even more amazing for its funny and technical sides.
I really liked it, I was eager to get to each new log, to each new chapter. I got the feeling I knew Mark, I knew others based on things he wrote for them, therefore this felt like a real and complete novel for me.
Some readers complain of the lack of depth and emotional feelings from Mark, that he is too aloof in that unbearable situation. I think his personality, his skills as an astronaut and a little of suspended belief should be enough to make this a winner book. And many people thought so, thus the prizes it got.
Personally, I've loved it to pieces but yes, a bit more feeling on Mark's side would give it a extra layer of interest.

All in all, I've had a great time, I loved the story and several passages I still fondly remember. There are countless aspects readers can focus on, but everything aside, this is purely entertainment. I really loved it and recommend it to all readers!
Grade: 9/10

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