Thank you to Justin for pointing out the spelling mistake. I wrote this in Google Docs, then had to clean out the italicized smart quotes Google Docs uses before uploading to WordPress. Otherwise, the code in the post would go haywire. It looks like I threw in an older draft before the spelling mistakes were edited. Then, when I didn’t double-check my meta. Way to go, Finn. Way. To. Go. Now, back to your regularly scheduled program. Here’s how I figured it out.
Damn you, Facebook Ads. That’s when I first saw about the movie “The Martian.” The concept completely pulled me in. I shared what I saw online and asked if the book was worth reading. My cousin Cedan, the chronic reader, said it was a good read, and confirmed that I should read it before going to see the movie.
I had others who jumped in as well and said it was worth it.
I bought the book just before Labor Day and read about 1/3rd of it before we left a couple days later for my mother-in-law’s place on the Oregon Coast. When we got there, we found that my brother-in-law left a copy of the book in the spare room. He read it a year ago.
I don’t know why I have so many readers in my family. It makes it that much harder to try to relate to them about basketball if all they’re going to read all day instead of taking jumpshots. Blessings in disguise…
For starters: the author’s history is legit AND he’s local to here in East Bay
Andy Weir is more than a writer. According to ad-hock Googlin’, Weir is a second generation lab rat. His father was a particle physicist for over 30 years near here at the I’m-very-intimidated-by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, located in Livermore, CA, on the other side of the city line from where I live.
Livermore Labs is legit. Like, automatic-guns-on-turrets-protecting-the-grounds legit. Some of their scientists live in the same apartment building as Katie and I. They’re holy-shit smart and, if I had to guess, they’d get shot for treason if they ever talked about the next-gen tech and science they work on. If my head was anywhere near clear when I was in school, I still don’t think I could have been smart enough to work there. I have serious respect for what they do.
Andy Weir never worked at Livermore Labs, but when he was 15 he was hired as a programmer at Sandia National Laboratories, also in Livermore.
Wine & Science. Seriously, I’m completely fascinated by our neighboring town of Livermore, CA.
From what I read, Andy Weir ended up going the Silicon Valley programming route from there. There’s cool shit on his resume. Here, check out his LinkedIn profile.
About the story, in 48 spoiler-free words or less
It’s about a NASA Astronaut who gets mistakenly, yet understandably left behind after an accident during NASA’s third explorational mission to Mars and has to, “science the shit out of,” his short-term supplies in order to try to survive up-to a 4 year wait to be rescued.
“Why ‘up to a 4-year wait’?”
Because the story is a realistic estimation of scientific advances around the end of the 21st century, which means a trip to and from Mars will still take quite a bit of time to plan, estimate, and properly supply for. On a normal trip, this would mean they would try to re-use as much as possible, utilize what they can, send ahead what supplies possible could survive possible zero air pressure & a rough landing, and math & physics out how to have enough to get there and back without killing the crew or losing their data. On an emergency rescue mission, the stakes become that much higher and difficult to ascertain given the time restraints. Planetary orbits don’t change because we need them to.
There are no TARDISes, no teleportation, and no makes or models of NCC-1701 in this story.
The log-style storytelling is a great way to tell the story
What’s really cool is that The Martian is written primarily on the event logs of the main character, NASA engineer / botanist / mechanical engineer Mark Watney. Then when there are scenes about the other character interactions, it’s written in the moment.
It was the fact he used the log format that was fascinating.
Because of the use of the logs, it made it that much harder to guess the ending
The ending, of course, comes down to, “will he live or will he die?” The great thing about using the astronauts logs to tell the story is that logs are often used as a sci-fi / military device to tell the stories of the dead.
Because of log format, I couldn’t properly be confident of the ending until his fate was revealed
It made null & void all tips and hints of how the story would end. Everything continued to be in play.
It’s Space. Everything can change in a moment.
The log reading was detailed and humorous.
The logs go into pretty specific details of all the work Watney had to put into his day to stay alive, keep everything running, and keep sane. Oh, and when he had to do the supply runs, the level of effort and concentration he needed to maintain the process in order not get his brains sucked out of a crack was breathtaking, pardon the pun.
As much as I enjoyed the detail, the reading was made that much more enjoyable because of the level of dark humor Watney used in the logs. I almost woke up Katie on more than one occasion from laughing at the jokes.
The story didn’t lose momentum
From beginning to end, the story was consistent.
I had Will Hunting in my head when I read this
It actually wasn’t a bad thing. I actually enjoy Matt Damon as an actor. Because of the humor and wit, I had Watney being played by Will Hunting – how do you like them apples?
[Update: We saw the movie. Here’s what I thought]
I think Katie and I are going to shell out the unconscionable $20 a person to watch it in 3-D on Friday. I think it’s going to be a fascinating watch.
Even if it isn’t a great movie, the book was worth the read to get a fair appreciation for the level of detail that into the story. The writer claims to have liked the movie. We’ll see.
PS: 1 Spoiler
Astronaut Watney is a Cubs fan: