The novel, published in 2014, is the highly acclaimed debut work of the author, and was later converted into a film in 2015, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon as lead character Mark Watney.
The author has worked as a computer programmer since the age of fifteen, and has been writing in his spare time for nearly twenty years: he has web comics and other science fiction works to his name on his website. His first novel ‘Theft of Pride’ failed to get published. The Martian was critically acclaimed for its scientific accuracy and engrossing plot.
The book is set in a certain time in the future (with no specified dates) where travel to Mars has become a reality, with a first-person narrative (log entries of Watney on Mars) as well as a third-person narrative (all scenes outside Mars). It begins with a log entry where Watney describes his dire circumstances (being stranded on Mars with hardly any food and no means of communication with Earth) and his minuscule chances of survival, and leads into his ideas to prolong his life long enough to come up with plans to attempt to get back to Earth. Being a botanist, he plants potatoes using his own excreta mixed with Martian soil in the crew’s intended “Habitat”. As time passes, he manages to communicate with NASA using systems from previous missions to Mars. NASA then brainstorms for ideas to bring him back alive while even considering the possibility of leaving him behind, as it would cost much lesser in terms of money and potentially, even life. It is decided that a food package be sent to Watney to keep him alive, and the satellite is put together in record time, albeit at the cost of not running required pre-launch tests; due to the hasty loading, a weight mismatch causes the launch to crash and dampens everybody’s spirits and hopes. Meanwhile, a NASA astrodynamicist named Purnell is hit with a brainwave where he comes up with a slingshot manoeuvre which can save Watney’s life with minimal cost and maximum efficiency. Eventually, after months of planning and preparation, it is decided that the crew- which escaped the massive dust storm in the launch vehicle and is currently close to Earth- shall fly by Earth back to Mars to bring Watney back safely. This idea put into action despite NASA chief’s opposition, thanks to the NASA’s chief of the Mars Missions who slyly sends a newly scripted flight plan to the crew members. After a few more months and much drama (including Watney’s near-fatal drive of over 3200km to reach the launch vehicle of another mission, taking down many components to reduce weight, and near death of starvation due to rationing of limited food resources), precision manoeuvring of the two crafts by flight engineer Martinez helps save Watney, despite sustaining injuries.
It is an extremely compelling read dished out by Andy Weir, with large doses of humour, action,suspense, drama, and science; the biggest stand-outs for me are the realistic portrayal of the characters, the scientific accuracy of the entire plot, and mostly, the brilliant narrative style which leaves you breathlessly waiting to know the twists and turns of the plot! On the whole, it is an ultimate page turner and a delight for sci-fi enthusiasts; it’s a perfect ten out of ten personally and surely one of my top recommendations.
II CAMS K