It’s been a while since I stayed up late reading a really good book. I’ve read lots of good, quality books lately, but none of them have had me at the edge of my seat from page 1 to page end. That is what Andy Weir’s The Martian did to my life. I left it open on the counter, just so that I could skim a few sentences while putting together snacks. I actually let the commercials roll so that I could read and watch a recorded TV show one night – the others I didn’t even bother with the TV.
I have to put out there before going any further that this book is full of language – there is quite a bit of swearing and cursing, though since the premise is an astronaut got left behind, presumed dead, on Mars, I think he’s probably earned a few choice words.
At first glance, the book is a clear celebration of what science has achieved and the incredible things science can do when it is coupled with a creative, focused and determined mind. The protagonist, Mark Watney, is a unique blend of botanist, mechanical engineer and astronaut. He assesses the problems facing him and boldly concocts solutions, even when his solutions take a few tries to get right. He is placed in an impossible situation and manages to create a possible solution.
The most remarkable thing about the book, I believe, is how realistic Earth’s response is to this harrowing situation. This is one man, one single individual, stranded on Mars. Between NASA, other companies and even other countries, millions of dollars in research, overtime, products and plans go into bringing him home. All for one person. The value of human life is never discussed. Whether one person is worth the cost is not mentioned. As soon as they knew he was alive, all parties focused on how to get him home.
This book highlights our understanding of the uniqueness and preciousness of every life. It also shows the lengths the world could go to rescue that one life. Though this is fiction, I believe Weir created a reasonable response if it were to happen today.
Definitely make sure you have a long weekend or at least a few evenings clear when you start this one. It’s well worth it.
I haven’t seen the movie as of this posting but I hope to, and I hope that it lives up to the thrilling story that Andy Weir has crafted.