The Martian by Andy Weir

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When I was a child, before school or anything, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was an astronaut. I could spent hours upon hours looking at television specials about the Universe and when I learnt how to read I read everything about the stars and planets. My mother has her favourite childhood (horror) story about me: on a Sunday morning, very early, I jumped into my parents’ bed asking, ‘What’s the fourth planet from the Sun?’ My mother had often stated that it was the moment she sort of gave up on me. Since then I, obviously, did not become an astronaut despite liking physics and chemistry a lot. My life turned towards the arts but I still love a good Universe special and feel protective over Pluto’s status. So when everyone – wait! That needs more emphasis: EVERYONE – became obsessed with the movie version about this book, The Martian, I knew I had to read that.

Long story short: I swallowed it in two days. Even shorter: I loved it! It was so much fun. It was your favourite adventure stories and your favourite schoolteacher put together. You could say that it is the best of both worlds… (sorry not sorry!) I have since seen many comparing it to R.L. Stevenson’s Robinson Crusoe and I can definitely get behind that, a story I loved as a child. The language in The Martian is a bit more ‘colourful’ than Crusoe’s but I am pretty sure he would have said the same but could not write it. Because, just as Crusoe, Mark Whatney is all alone on a remote island – in space – with no comm system. I would personally have used the exact same words as he did. Most of the novel is a first person narrative from Whatney’s point of view, actually his mission logs, and it was an excellent decision by Weir because you establish a bond with Whatney and get to know him so well despite maybe not having a clue about what he is doing.

That’s another brilliant thing: Weir has managed to write a heavily science-probed novel but making it understandable. Imagine schoolbook writers being able to do that! I felt like I understood all the science references and there is a lot. The plot and Whatney just make it all a crazy wonderful adventure where you just keep reading a chapter more. Especially after all the times Whatney almost blows himself up in one way or another but you are also close to tears when his insane attempts work and I had many memories flashing by of watching MacGyver as a child (there’s even a reference to him in The Martian!).

About a third into the story, the first person logs give way for a shared story line when scientists on Earth actually notice Whatney is still alive via satellites. These are told in a third person voice, which is nice if you started to tire a bit with the writing style. Here we follow NASA and affiliates’ attempts to save Whatney and as a reader you really feel connected to their experience, about wanting to do something but will it work and do so in time? Especially with Whatney’s crew already on their way back to Earth. Together with Whatney’s attempts at surviving Mars and himself, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the politics and will power going into space business. Because it is a business and a high-prolific one, which means money can easily be spent but also easily be stopped. At the same time it heightens the hope that people can share and make them work together beyond most of their differences. However, this is an American novel and it does hint at diplomatic problems with foreign nations, and that felt honest for various reasons despite not letting us doubt for a second who the (true) heroes are in the story.

Again, long story short: this is an awesome adventure and I highly recommend everyone else go to Mars, especially if you ever had just a slight buzz in your stomach when you watched space programs as a child and wanted to be an astronaut. This book is close to making that dream come true.


Dansk:

The Martian er alle voksne børns drøm hvis de nogensinde ønskede at blive astronauter. Det er Robinson Crusoe og den gamle tv-serie MacGyver i én men bare på en øde planet. Andy Weir har skrevet en roman med mange naturvidenskabelige termer men som selv jeg med min ultra-humaniora uddannelse kan forstå. Det kunne mange skolebogsforfattere lære lidt af.

Selve plottet er Mark Whatney, botaniker og astronaut, og ved et uheld efterladt alene på Mars uden andet end en rover og et oppusteligt telt. Ingen kommunikationssystemer eller noget. Den danske oversættelse gør ikke helt det – hmm – farverige sprog fyldest, men jeg ville heller ikke selv lægge fingre imellem hvis jeg var strandet deroppe. Han fortæller gennem sine missions logs hvordan han forsøger at overleve, hvilket involvere kartofler i ‘beriget jord’, uendelige kedelige køreture på 30km/t, genbrugsvæske og en del eksplosioner, sjældent planlagte.

Circa en tredjedel inde i romanen får vi også indblik i NASA og deres arbejde, og hvis man var ved at køre lidt sur i fortællestilen, så reddes bogen her. Her kommer flere på banen og man får indblik i bureaukrati, politik og PR, men gennem hele bogen er det uden tvivl Mark Whatney, som hiver læserens interesse og nervepirrende håb med sig for hver side, der vendes. Hans humør og sjove referencer til sine gamle astronautkammerater giver den rette blanding af comic relief til den ufatteligt farlige situation han er i. Vi griner og græder med ham og håber konstant at missionen om at redde ham vil lykkes.

The Martian blev også en kæmpe succes på det store lærred med Mark Wallberg i hovedrollen. Jeg har ikke selv set filmen, men jeg kan kun forestille mig at hvis man kunne lide den vil man gerne have mere. Det her er sci-fi for alle.

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About Ann-Cathrine 38 Articles
Established 1987 in Aarhus, Denmark. MA degree in English and Art History from Aarhus University, Denmark. Loves books, art, writing, coffee, dandelions, paper dolls, and haute couture.