The Martian

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 16, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

The club met on November 16th, 2015, to discuss “The Martian,” by Andy Weir. Nine members attended, all had started the book and 8 finished it. Six had read the book electronically. The book was originally self-published in 2011 and became a hit on Amazon’s Kindle, leading to a hardcover edition published in 2014.

Two members had seen the movie starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, which was released in late September this year. They agreed that the movie had stunning photography and recommended it to all, including those who had read the book.

All members liked the book although there were several mild criticisms (since this was a purely science-fiction effort) of the technology. For example, the reason Mark Watney was abandoned on Mars was a windstorm that threatened to topple the escape vehicle. Readers doubted that a windstorm in the thin atmosphere of Mars would be unable to generate enough force to do that. The statement that “Mylar” was conductive was incorrect, although Mylar is sometimes coated with conductive material. A description of breaking glass in a faceplate was quite different from the way tempered glass actually fails. But in general the technology was good enough to make the story enjoyable even to those inclined to nitpick the technical details.

Some commented that “this is a good book to read on a plane,” supported by two who had actually read it that way. Members enjoyed the problem-solving aspect, and some liked the psychology playing out in the crew of the escaping ship and in the bureaucracy back on earth. They liked the portrayal of the gigantic effort in supporting the mission and helping Watney survive long enough for a rescue attempt.

Several members agreed that the style of reading journal entries became tiresome after a while, and that the book was “a long short story” that was repetitive. Some commented on resemblance to Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” and the 1964 movie “Robinson Crusoe on Mars.” Others mentioned the 1995 movie “Apollo 13.” Another criticism was that there was “not much development.”

In summary, the group agreed that the book was well worth reading and the two who had seen the movie recommended it highly.

–Tom Sciance