This article was first published in The Havok Journal on 28FEB15.
“Of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.” ~ NASA Astronaut Mark Watney, Sol 199, Mars
A Sol is one day on Mars, and it is 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth, and NASA astronaut, Mark Watney, ends up spending a whole lot more Sols on Mars than he or anyone else ever dreamed he would. During a fierce Martian sand storm, Astronaut Watney, the most junior of his crew becomes lost and injured, and his Commander, believing him dead is forced to abort the mission and re-deploy from Mars without him. But Mark Watney is not dead, he has somehow survived, but he is utterly alone, has limited supplies, and is in the harshest environment known to man. He cannot communicate with Earth, and no one knows he is alive. All Astronaut Mark Watney possesses that can possibly save his life, is the gear left behind by his crew, his space suit, a whole lot of Martian sand, and his ingenuity.
“I am pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.” This is the first sentence in “The Martian”. “The Martian” is a story that the military and veteran community will love. The themes that run through Weir’s novel are universal to soldiers. Soldiers will intimately understand the constant struggle with one’s gear…and trusting it to save your life, the ever present battle with nature, the absolute need for the facts, constant inspections, the hysterical and wretched moments that are often illustrated as one literally fights for their life. Soldiers will intimately understand how Watney’s survival on Mars, can be both humiliating and divine at the same time, they will relate to the author’s themes of true bravery, true fear, friendship, and stepping off the line, genuinely not having any idea of what lies in front of you. Andy Weir is a keen writer, a writer that takes chances, one who trusts his reader to “get” all the science, and one that embraces exploration and human survival like no writer I have encountered in some time.
Everyone has heard someone say that a book was “so good, they just couldn’t put it down”…well New York Times Best seller, “The Martian” is so good, I literally had to put it down. At certain points Weir’s novel simply engulfs you, and you are afraid to read one more page, fearing that either you are actually on Mars with Mark Watney instead of in your neighborhood coffee shop, or that the page you’re on, will be the page in which Mark Watney dies on Mars alone. “The Martian” is the kind of book, one feverishly scribbles notes in the margins…my unreadable notes are all over it.
“The Martian” is not about sex, it is not about war or violence, it is not about romance, and it is not about drugs, or rock and roll. “The Martian” is infinitely more; it is a brilliantly written, unbelievable hilarious account about survival, science, trust, never leaving a team member behind, human error, despair, hope, the unbreakable American spirit, and the adventure and terror of truly going where no one has been before.
“The Martian” fiercely exemplifies that Space travel is like war – no matter how many politicians and uninformed Americans think it is safer and more sterile than it’s ever been, both are still a really big deal. Both are messy, punishingly hard, expensive, things break and people die. I am not a NASA Astronaut, but damn if I didn’t categorically comprehend what Mark Watney was going through on Mars, damn if I didn’t believe that Watney’s situation was absolutely believable, damn if I wasn’t in his corner the whole time, damn if I didn’t want to give NASA a trillion dollars tomorrow and volunteer for a one way ticket to Mars, and damn if I wasn’t proud to be an American as I read the last page of this book.