Read “The Martian” before the movie comes out

By Hannah Mason, Assistant Editor

It’s not what it sounds like. Despite the title, the New York Times bestselling science fiction novel The Martian by Andy Weir is not another book about aliens.

After starting out as a self-published book posted on the author’s website for free in 2011, The Martian continues to rank on the bestseller list this summer in anticipation of the movie version, starring Matt Damon, which is coming to theaters this October 2.

Mark Watney, the book’s protagonist, is an astronaut who is on Mars with the NASA mission Ares 3. On the crew’s sixth day on Mars, a massive and unexpected sandstorm causes them to abort their mission and go back to Earth early. However, in the process of escaping, Mark Watney gets injured and passes out, and the crew, thinking him dead, is forced to leave him behind.

The Martian, mostly written in the form of Mark Watney’s mission log, is the story of the struggles of an astronaut stranded alone on an alien planet with no way to contact Earth. Given what it’s about, you would expect this to be a pretty serious book, about the depths of loneliness and despair that this man goes through during his fight for survival in a world unsustainable for human life. That’s what I expected, anyway.

I certainly didn’t expect it to be funny. Sure enough, though, The Martian is a serious story told from the humorous perspective of a sarcastic science geek trapped on Mars. He keeps up his spirits with jokes, seventies TV shows, and a steady stream of disco music that he found on his captain’s computer, even as he struggles to figure out how to grow crops on Mars, rig his space equipment to last way longer than it was designed to, and deal with the problem of how to communicate with Earth to try to get back home.

Fast-paced, action-oriented, and witty, The Martian is a book that succeeds in combining real, hard science with entertaining fiction. Whether you’re a sci-fi fanatic, an astrophysicist, or you’ve never read science fiction before, I’d recommend The Martian as both a hilarious and an inspiring summer read. Don’t worry; there’s still time to read it before the film version comes out in October.

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