Review — The Martian (Book & Movie)

I just finished The Martian, by Andy Weir. I had seen the movie a couple months back (and again just recently), and I have to say both are very well put together. The book for bringing so much humor and flavor into the genre of hard science-fiction, and the movie for creating such a perfect rendition of the book. They’re both impressive in their own right. So, since they’re both relatively recent, I won’t actually spoil any major plot here.

I’ve heard from multiple sources that all the science in The Martian is sound. Given all the technology the people could theoretically be equipped with at that time, everything happens the way it should, except the premise, interestingly enough. Mark Whatney gets stranded on Mars in the beginning because the dust storm his team got caught on forced an evacuation that went poorly, but in reality, Mars’ atmosphere isn’t nearly thick enough to house a storm as strong as was depicted in the book and movie. (In all honesty, though, I knew little of the science described in the story, so I wouldn’t know if it was real or not on my own. It’s not hard to grasp, though: both mediums do a good job explaining how things work without boring you.)

Mark Whatney’s character is pretty much the only reason the book is even good. He casts a lot of humor and sarcasm into his situation, and if he was less interesting, well, there would be no book, let alone a movie. In fact, all the characters in the book are compelling, and that’s a feat in my eyes. Even the people on the Ares III crew that got virtually no screen time in the movie became developed people with background and depth in the book.

As far as the movie goes, I was pleasantly surprised with how much justice it did to the book. Many scenes whose details were irrelevant to the plot were done word for word in the movie, and if I recall correctly, everything in the movie was also in the book, and with the exception of one scene in particular, everything happened in exactly the same ways, too. There were scenes that were scrapped for the movie, of course. Situations and obstacles were left out, but because they weren’t addressed in the movie, it wasn’t missing them, either. When I came across them in the book, I had new stuff to experience, because there were new problems Whatney had to face.

If I had to find any problems with the movie/book—and I’m really nitpicking here—it would be that the story is too static. There’s the threat of starvation that’s always ticking, and the longer Whatney stays on Mars, the more likely he is to die, but really, his position never changes. To address my writing acronym of TEAM (Teaching audience, Establishing rules, Answering questions, and Moving characters), there isn’t much movement in the book, as far as Whatney’s relationship with the conflict. He’s in a constant state of reaction, and when he succeeds, all it does is maintain the statis quo of him remaining alive. Now, this point is extremely arguable, but rather than remain on this subject too long, I’ll just move on. That’s pretty much the only flaw I could find in the story, period.

So, obviously I would recommend both the movie and the book. They’re both quite enjoyable, and while it’s very science-y, it’s not overwhelmingly complicated. It’s certainly no kids book, (there’s also lots of cursing, understandably,) but it’s accessible to the normal people as much as it is to science geeks. In my personal opinion, you should watch the movie first. Matt Damon fits the role of Mark Whatney pretty dang well, and since the movie is so good, it will not only help you visualize the events in the book, but it also makes those extra stuff that happens in the book bonus material, rather than being disappointed when the movie cut those scenes.

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