You may have heard of The Martian, the Golden Globe winning, Oscar-nominated movie starring Matt Damon as a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars after an accident forced his fellow crew members to make the life or death decision to leave the planet. You may not know that this critically-acclaimed movie is actually an adaptation of the 2014 novel of the same name, written by first-time novelist Andy Weir.
The book is an exciting, fast-paced, and often humorous story of survival. Mark Watney, the stranded astronaut/botanist must use his own guile to grow food, establish communication with NASA, and endure numerous catastrophic trials. While the film adaptation follows very closely to the book’s overarching plot, much of the humor and ingenuity of Watney’s character is lost in the translation to the screen. The book brings a first-person perspective to Watney’s struggle on Mars, which allows the reader to follow the character’s thought process on the page as the events unfold. The book’s third act also plays out much differently than its film counterpart, which felt like a rushed and action-oriented conclusion in comparison.
In writing The Martian, Andy Weir strived to be as realistic and accurate as possible. The challenges, consequences, and solutions are presented methodically to the reader as Watney experiences them. There are a lot of very science-y explanations, but the language used to describe them makes it all very easy to follow. Most importantly, there are very few moments of suspended disbelief. The entire story comes across as plausible in the real world, and does not feel at all like a science fiction story.
All in all, if you enjoyed the film, the book is a must read. While the movie is a very good adaption, the book allows the characters more depth. There are many great character moments and events in the book that never made it to the screen, due to constraints in time length, and the consequences of Watney’s isolation is much more pronounced in the book. Basically, if you have already seen the movie, then you should read the book. If you have not seen the movie yet, then you should still read the book. The Martian can be found in both the library’s General Collection and Audio Book Collection, and can be checked out for 21 days.
Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter,
More Than Books, V. 19 No. 2, Spring 2016.