The Martian was a hilarious (purely because of Watney’s documentation), fast paced and action led novel to read.
Funny in its onset, the reader soon realises that the stakes are far higher than they had imagined and that this is not going to be a comedic take on living in outer space. Instead, though humour is used, it is more of a defensive mechanism for the protagonist, to cope with his situation and to keep the reader interested, if it were bleak and dark the entire way through, the story would have been quite a depressing one.
Thankfully, it’s not.
Mark Watney is the focal character of this book and it is his journey that we follow. After an accident, during a particularly violent storm, he is left stranded by his distraught crew members, thinking he is dead. When he wakes, it’s to a new day and he is alone on Mars. Bleeding and dehydrated, he stumbled back to safety where he patches up his wound and that is when he realises there is no way to contact Earth from where he is based. The reader’s laughs from the first page soon die, Watney’s sarcastic words, “I’m fucked”, are soon forgotten. He has no other option but to try and survive until the next Mars landing or if in some act of God, someone rescues him – which he highly doubts.
He does not blame his team, he knows that his commander, Lewis, made the right decision, he knows that if his team were told, they’d want to turn around and save him from death on Mars. But for NASA and everyone back home, that was not an option, at the beginning at least. So, his crew do not find out that he is alive until much later. In between his growth of potatoes, he leaves a log of his experiences for us, the readers, to have and for anyone, if in the future, they find him long after his death.
He listens to his crews’ music lists and finds himself either stuck with The Beatles, from Beth Johanssen or Disco music, from Melissa Lewis, which he is not fan of. But does seem to enjoy Lewis’ TV shows. He prepares then to fix his radio, in the hopes of contacting NASA, while he does so he leaves messages for each crew member – telling his closest friend, Martinez, to check in on his parents, he tells Chris Beck to tell Beth about his feelings for her and he tells Johanssen that she’s weird.
His little anecdotes about his crew members were sweet and short, but nostalgic nonetheless. It is his perseverance that keeps him alive, despite missing his friends and thinking about them, along with his own survival all the time. In time, NASA find out he’s alive and he is able to communicate with the people at home. Soon, the world knows that he is trapped on Mars and his crew find out. It is then, that the team decide, against official orders, to return to Mark and rescue him.
Thankfully, it works and the reader is able to breathe again after a tense and moving read.