“Life is amazingly tenacious.”
Science fiction isn’t usually my thing. There are exceptions; I loved Dark Matter and the Red Rising series and the Illuminae Files. Ender’s Game remains one of my favorite books from my childhood. But usually with science fiction I have to love the characters and plot enough to look past the science, or science has to be barely present. In The Martian, science and math have starring roles, and the book would’ve been less without them. Because in Mark Watney’s situation, science and math were the greatest tools he had with which to ward off death. And Watney’s story is quite possibly my favorite science fiction novel I’ve ever read.
“Astronauts are inherently insane. And really noble.”
I’ve always loved any kind of man versus nature story. That was honestly my favorite element of The Hunger Games. I’ve read books like Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins and My Side of the Mountain literally dozens of times. Books where one person finds themselves alone in the wild and at the mercy of the elements have always engrossed and inspired me. Mankind’s ingenuity in the face of death is incredible. But Watney’s tale isn’t one of man versus nature, because there is no nature on Mars. His is a story of man versus the void, vanquishing certain death time and again with science.
“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
Watney is perhaps one of the most compelling characters in fiction. He finds himself in an impossible situation, stranded alone on Mars. And since everyone thinks he’s already dead, the hope of rescue is a pipe dream. Instead of just giving up and waiting around to die, as I’m sure so many of us would do if we found ourselves in a similar situation, Watney finds a way to keep moving forward. He takes what was left behind on the surface and stretches and repurposes those supplies to keep himself alive. Despite being the low man on the totem pole that is his crew, he’s fiercely intelligent and wildly creative, solving the massive problems that faced him in ways that would never occur to anyone else. Watney never gives up; he’s quite possibly the most optimistic person I’ve ever encountered, real or fictional. Seriously, he even puts classic children’s characters like Anne Shirley and Polyanna and Sara Crew to shame. His optimism and snarky attitude and determination make him one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Also, he’s a giant nerd who views himself as a Martian farmer and a space pirate; what’s not to love?
“How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
This is a book that I’ve picked up in the past but was unable to connect with until I tried the audiobook. As with Daisy Jones and the Six, the audio made all the difference. Every element of this story felt tangibly real to me, and I was constantly pacing my house and cleaning things that were already clean because I couldn’t stop listening and I usually only consume audiobooks when exercising or driving or doing chores around the house. R.C. Bray is a marvelous narrator, and I’ll definitely be on the search for more books read by him. He embodied Mark Watney even more than Matt Damon did, and I say that as someone who adored the movie.
“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”
I highly recommend The Martian to everyone, especially if you enjoy audiobooks. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not, this is a book everyone should read. It’s the ultimate survival story, and you’ll be rooting for Mark Watney with your entire being. His is a tale that deserves to be heard.
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