Typically, I wouldn’t have picked up this book of my own volition. While I enjoy science in my every day life and intend to make a career out of it, I don’t particularly enjoy reading about it on a general basis. However, The Martian by Andy Weir pleasantly surprised me. While the book is science heavy in some sections and can be slowed down in pace at those science-laden bits, it was a fast paced read. Initially, this was due to the activity of the plot (there is always something going on in this book) but after a while the plot seemed repetitive. However, the choice of main character made the book far more enjoyable and drove the story onward. This character driven novel was a pleasure to read and I give it a four out of five stars.
The movie, however, I give only three and a half out of four stars. This is because I felt that there were unnecessary changes to the plot that ultimately didn’t serve any time saving process. While I understand that a movie must eliminate some details from a book for the sake of time, I am also a stickler for details. I felt there were changes made in the movie which drained it of some of its energy though what it lacked in energy it made up for in amazing graphics.
Let me start of by saying that Mark Watney has made into my list of favorite book characters. Honestly, his sense of humor (ie sarcasm) and tenacity made him an enjoyable character to follow and is the main reason why I enjoyed the book. Where any other human being would have been guaranteed to die, he was able to use his engineering and botany skills to good use. The fact that he was able to grow hundreds of potatoes on Mars is one of the most impressive skills any human being can even claim. I practically cried for the death of the potatoes farm when the tear in the hub caused them all to die because, after a while, the potatoes felt like characters themselves. The other impressive thing about Watney was that he was able to take apart other machines to improve on the ones he had. This man was able to do so much with so little because he knew how things needed to work and how to make them work that way. I loved that about him. Had he been any other character who couldn’t do any of that, he would have been boring (not to mention dead.)
I was worried at first when I noticed the absence of other characters for the first few chapters (after all, he was alone on Mars) but was relieved when the point of view shifted to also incorporate the rescue efforts being done on Earth. While at times I found the continuous shifting a little annoying because I was so engrossed in what Watney was doing that I didn’t care about the Earthlings, I also found it added a new dimension to the story that helped in understanding many of the events and made it more enjoyable. Not to mention, one of my favorite comedy moments of the book occurred when everyone on Earth realized Watney still lived and someone pondered on what a person who thought they were abandoned to die on Mars must be thinking at the moment, only to pan to Watney’s point of view to discover he was concerned about the logic of Aqua Man commanding sea mammals. I laughed so hard at this point that I dropped the book and received looks of concern from the people sitting around me since I happened to be outside of a classroom waiting for my class to enter.
As I stated earlier, I felt this was a character driven book and that I felt a lot of the events that occurred were repetitive after a while. What I mean by this is that every new chapter, something would go wrong when it had been going right before, or something would occur to Watney that would again put him in danger of dying. After two hundred pages of this continuous struggle, no matter how life-like and realistic it is, it gets tedious. Especially since everyone is rooting for Watney’s survival. It becomes discouraging after a while and I feel that the book would have been one I’d have been unable to complete except that, despite his struggles, Watney wasn’t discourage or defeated. He pressed on and lathered each bad situation with a commendable sense of humor. He kept the reader from wanting to quit by not quitting himself and I greatly appreciated that.
The things that I enjoyed about the book, however, were things that I felt were changed or cut from the movie. The movie was listed as PG-13 which meant that Watney’s otherwise colorful vocabulary – he drops more f-bombs in the book than I do when I stub my toe on a chair – was limited to one use of the f word. While the movie rectified that in a few instances (such as having him mouth the word inside of his land rover where the audience couldn’t hear him) I felt a lot of his character was dulled down by his inability to remain true to himself as he was written.
Also, for the record, the book says everything starts on Sol 6. So tell me what purpose the movie had in changing it to Sol 18?!?!
However, there were instances in which I applaud the movie. For starters, in the book, Watney describes his stitching the wound he received from the antenna piercing his suit in a clinical manner. This is because the book is in the form of his journal log and by the time he describes what has occurred, much of the emotion is lost. I highly doubt anyone recounting what they did to mend themselves would think to add that it hurt like hell and was messy. The movie, being able to show the log as a video log in which he could film things as they occurred, managed to show this scene perfectly. You could see the sweat rolling down his forehead and the sunken in look of his eyes people get when they are grievously injured. It was brilliantly done!
I also enjoyed the way in which the movie was able to show how Watney becomes emaciated throughout the extent of his stay on Mars because of the amount of labor he does and the rations he is forced to impose on himself to make the food last as long as possible. While the book didn’t touch on this, I imagine for a similar reason that the way the surgery was described was done so clinically, it was great to see Hollywood take advantage of the medium to show it. Again, brilliant.
I highly recommend the book and movie to anyone who enjoys science-heavy science fiction (by the way, 99 percent of the science involved, was accurate – which was impressive in itself.) I also recommend it to anyone who loves strong, sarcastic characters and a bit of adventure. All and all, this was a great read and I am highly grateful that being a part of this amazing book club gave me the opportunity and push I needed to expand my reading horizons to incorporate the Martian.