Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
From Goodreads: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
“Necessitie, the inuentour of all goodnesse.” – Roger Ascham, Toxophilus, 1545
MacGyver on Mars? In truth, as much as I loved the 1980’s television series, featuring and I quote “a secret agent armed with almost infinite scientific resourcefulness.” Richard Dean Anderson’s character doesn’t have a patch on Mark Watney. The biologist slash chief engineer finds himself in the most untenable of untenable situations when he is stranded utterly and completely alone on the Red Planet with only his own ingenuity to depend on for his survival. The alternate title of this book really should have been Murphy’s Law: Mars Edition… who knows perhaps it was already taken and Dumb F@cking Luck wouldn’t have looked right on the bestseller shelf, which is where this book currently resides and completely deserves to be in my august opinion.
The Martian was a vast departure from my typical romantic reading preference. However, from the first page The Martian seizes the reader, capturing one’s attention completely. Fun fact, Mars has the largest dust storms in the entire solar system. They can last for months and can cover the entire planet, it is one of these notable storms that literally blows Watney away from his crew leading them to assume that he is deceased and to subsequently leave the planet without him. You would think that a novel that features almost entirely a literary example of man versus nature and perhaps occasionally himself would lack the tension required to snare one’s interest for more than a chapter or two. That would be an erroneous belief, The Martian is a riveting adventure story of the like I haven’t read in many years, if ever.
When Mark Watney regains consciousness alone on Mars, so begins this scientist’s epic battle to survive in an inhospitable environment to say the least considering the surface temperature varies from a balmy -5°C to -87. With provisions enough for only a few months, no communication with Earth and the next manned expedition to Mars years away Watney, rather than turning to a handy fatal overdose, stubbornly decides to survive. To do so he needs to figure out a way to grow crops on a planet that doesn’t support life, he also has to literally combine hydrogen and oxygen to make water enough to sustain not only himself but also the crops he grows.
“If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah. I’m fucked.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian
The challenges that Watney faces are myriad, from mechanical dysfunction to the very weather that left him stranded in the first place. With every challenge that he surpasses you think to yourself, he has got to survive while simultaneously thinking there is no possible way that he can survive. From his conversion of the HAB to a de facto greenhouse to his trek across the surface to try and make contact with Earth it is clear that the author is not only possessed of a keen intelligence but also a wickedly dark sense of humour that makes reading this outwardly bleak tale into a fascinating exploration into the miracle of space and science.
“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
Be it a character study, a parable or simply a very scientific adventure story The Martian has something to please practically any reader. I highly recommend it, I hazard to say you will like it even more than MacGyver. It doesn’t hurt that the oh so very attractive Matt Damon has been cast in the starring role of the film adaptation set for release this autumn. Regardless I challenge any self respecting science fiction fan to watch this trailer and not think that it’s going to be wicked awesome! In the meantime, read the book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.