The Martian – the book and the movie

   

Who believes that the book is always better than the movie? I usually feel that way, but sometimes the film adaptation of a book removes the storytelling weaknesses, takes the good parts and makes an excellent story even better. That’s the case here with the movie version of The Martian.

I very much enjoyed the book version and the huge success of Andy Weir’s book is something all self-published authors can aspire to. The book was nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read. Here’s his success story:

Andy Weir, Image: Amazon.com

Andy Weir, a software engineer, has always enjoyed studying relativistic physics, orbital mechanics and manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel. He started writing it in 2009 and spent a great deal of time researching. It was originally self-published in 2011. He first offered it for free (in serial format) on his website. Weir’s chapters were popular and he developed an enthusiastic fan base. His readers urged him to offer it in Kindle format on Amazon. This 99¢ Kindle version was hugely popular and became an Amazon best-seller, selling 35,000 copies in three months. That got some publishers’ attentions. Weir sold the audiobook publishing rights to Podium Publishing in 2013 and soon after, Crown Publishing bought the print rights. Twentieth Century Fox bought the film rights the same year and the movie, starring Matt Damon, hit the theaters in 2015.

The story is about astronaut Mark Watney, who is stuck on Mars after being separated from his crewmates during a dangerous wind storm. The team thinks he’s dead and they reluctantly escape in their Mars Ascent Vehicle. How will he survive the huge challenge ahead of him, in a NASA habitat, with no communication and only a limited supply of food and water?

I liked both reading and watching how Watney improvises and uses his mighty brain to survive. He overcomes what to a normal person would be impossible challenges and becomes the hero we all want to see. Matt Damon does a great job in the role. His sense of humor and human side make him all the more likable. The movie is directed by Ridley Scott and also stars Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels. Click here for IMDb’s listing of the full cast and crew.

I thought the book was very good, although it was a little heavy on the math and science. And that’s why I think the movie is even better, because the story rises to the top. It’s what we all want in this type of film: action and a feel-good finish. As with all action films, viewers need to let go of analyzing whether or not events could actually happen and just enjoy the story.

I recommend both the book and the movie to science fiction fans and all movie-goers who enjoy action stories about heroes and overcoming adversity. I also recommend reading the book first because I don’t think the story would be as enjoyable if you’ve already seen the movie.

Click here for Book Club Mom’s review of the book.


I watched The Martian as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to watch a movie based on a book.

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The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
The Martian

by
Andy Weir

Rating:
3 book marks1 half bookmark

Mark Watney is stuck on Mars. He was separated from his crewmates during a dangerous wind storm, the team thinks he’s dead and they’ve reluctantly escaped in their Mars Ascent Vehicle. How will he survive the huge challenge ahead of him, in a NASA habitat, with no communication and only a limited supply of food and water?

Earth is a long way off!
Earth is a long way off!

Well Watney is no normal guy. Besides being an astronaut, he’s an engineer and a botanist. He’s also ridiculously optimistic and likes a good puzzle. These are qualities that serve him well during what could be a very long time on Mars.

I enjoyed reading The Martian. It’s a fast science fiction adventure with a positive feel. It’s easy to cheer for Watney, who finds himself in all kinds of dangerous and seemingly unsolvable situations. The story is presented mostly in journal format, but includes scenes from earth, radio communications and several third-person descriptions in space and on Mars. It’s suspenseful and moves at a good pace.

I expected a fair amount of science in this book. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I think The Martian gives the reader an overflowing abundance of math and science. Watney details his problem-solving strategies with textbook-like explanations. He’s like the teacher in the room who’s so excited about the problem, that he doesn’t notice the glazed-over eyes of his students. I’m not really a science or math girl, so I did find these sections a little slow. What they show, however, is that the very reason Watney is able to cope with the huge problems he encounters on Mars is because he is a calm, methodical, super-smart and innovative thinker.

Back on earth, the world is watching and NASA’s team of experts is working 24-7 to bring Watney home safely. Meanwhile, his crew is out in space, working their way home. It’s interesting to see how they all work together, how they measure time and distance and the plans they devise.

This is a science fiction action story, so don’t expect a lot of character development. There’s a little bit of intrigue and some world politics, but the story moves because of its basic rescue plot and not much else. Watney has an original way of talking, which includes a lot of swearing. But it’s mostly the kind when you hit your thumb with a hammer, all words, and not really offensive.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mars since I started this book. NASA has a rover wandering around on Mars right now, taking pictures. It’s fun to think that maybe once there was life on this planet. Check out these pictures:

How would you like to be all by yourself on Mars?
How would you like to be all by yourself on Mars?
I'm not sure my van could get over all these rocks!
I’m not sure my van could get over all these rocks!
...or these!
…or these!

Thanks to NASA and to exploremars.org for these pictures.

I think The Martian will make a good movie. Because of the way it’s written, it’s easy to picture the scenes. And when I see the movie, maybe I’ll remember the scientific calculations Watney needed to know to keep his air supply safe!

If you’re wondering about the potential success of self-publishing your book, check out Andy Weir’s story:
Andy Weir
Andy Weir

Andy Weir is a software engineer and has always enjoyed studying relativistic physics, orbital mechanics and manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel. He started writing it in 2009 and spent a great deal of time researching. It was originally self-published in 2011. He first offered it for free (in serial format) on his website. Weir’s chapters were popular and he developed an enthusiastic fan base. His readers urged him to offer it in Kindle format on Amazon. This 99¢ Kindle version was hugely popular and became an Amazon best-seller, selling 35,000 copies in three months. That got some publishers’ attentions. Weir sold the audiobook publishing rights to Podium Publishing in 2013 and soon after, Crown Publishing bought the print rights. Twentieth Century Fox bought the film rights the same year and the movie, starring Matt Damon, is due to be released in November 2015.

Now that’s meteoric!

Thanks to Andy Weir‘s website and Wikipedia for the great backstory.

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