The Martian, a book by Andy Weir, made a great splash in 2011, receiving very positive reviews, especially for a debut novel. It was re-released a few years later and even made it in the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for 2015. At the time, there was much hype around it, partially because it was already announced that a film with the same name was in the works. It boasted an impressive cast, with Matt Damon as lead actor and Ridley Scott at the helm.

This follows an interesting trend within Hollywood of quickly making film adaptations from new books that have great success but come from lesser known or established writers. For example, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (book released in 2012, film release 2014), The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015, 2016) or Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (2012, 2016), only to name a few.

In brief, it’s the story of botanist Mark Watney who gets stranded on Mars and has to overcome many obstacles, mostly using his knowledge, wit and ingenuity to survive and eventually try to get rescued. If you’re semi old like me, you probably remember a tv show called Macgyver (the old one with Richard Dean Anderson, not the terrible reboot). This is basically Macgyver on Mars.

Both the book and the film did very well and became household names. How? Bit of talent (more than e bit actually), good writing and imagination. Even though it’s a science fiction work it doesn’t overwhelm you with technical terms or explanations. The “sciency” part is mostly genuine and accurate, presented logically and interweaved in the light tone of the narrative.

I have to admit that the book tickled me pink. It appealed to me as a casual reader – having humour, good plot, good pacing, and also as a linguist, by using very creative and expressive phrases. You can clearly notice the postmodern language elements sprinkled along with the technical lingo, creating a very fresh and enticing mix, a sort of SF lite that can be inviting to the mainstream reader.

I stumbled up the hill back toward the Hab. As I crested the rise, I saw something that made me very happy and something that made me very sad: The Hab was intact (yay!) and the MAV was gone (boo!). (Weir, Andy, The Martian, p.20)

Most of the book uses interior monologue. We get to experience the events from Mark’s perspective, hearing his thoughts, and this is one of the brilliant aspects of the book. The character is very well developed and fleshed out, his emotions are natural and raw, and we get to insight into his stream of consciousness.

“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 fucked.” (p.22)

I didn’t mention the movie that much – I liked it a lot, but because of the nature of the medium it didn’t touch on some aspects that really enjoyed in the book. Matt Damon is very charismatic and does a great job portraying Mark Watney.

All in all, can’t go wrong with either, though I recommend the book, it’s out of this world (pun intended).



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