Not one hour after I finished reading the book I have sat down to write this blog simply because I need to talk to someone about it. The premise of the book is simple, a manned mission to Mars goes wrong and a botanist astronaut, Mark Watney, gets left behind. In this incredible journey of survival in a barren and deadly landscape I found myself actually laughing out loud, something only a few books has ever managed to achieve.
The humour comes from Mark’s character, the only character we are privileged to view for the first 48 pages, 48 pages from a book 369 pages long may not seem like a lot, but in that space of time we learn so much valuable information about Mark. His sense of humour comes across in the first few lines; he is more concerned with his Wikipedia page rather than the gravity of the situation but he still manages to keep a cool head. That right there is what makes Mark an engaging character, he knows how “fucked” he is and yet he jokes continually about it, his light heart approach takes the edge of the situation and my god it’s a terrible situation. Nearly dying several times he manages to survive through his determination to getting back home, but he’s always aware that deaths toeing the line to his door and even prepares for such an eventuality, seriously who keeps their cool about dying on a planet all alone?!
His experiences as a botanist come in handy as he begins to prepare for the long journey ahead, using his own faeces as manure (seriously you have to read this book). Not only is he a botanist but also an engineer, a job set needed for him to be able to survive that long; from fixing the HAB to dismantling the rover this guy knows how to do nearly everything. Another defining quality to his character, if something goes wrong he doesn’t sit back and moan (okay maybe a little) but he fixes it. He finds the strength to stand up and keep going with the knowledge that people believe him to be dead with the possibility that humans may never even return to Mars after this.
Thankfully he is not as alone as he thinks. NASA find out he is alive and begin to set in motion plans to bring him home. A world wide effort it put into bringing a botanist from Chicago home. Why (you may ask) would the whole world gather together to help a single man? Simple, because one single man is worth fighting for. Mark Watney puts it perfectly “But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.”
The novel moved me, it didn’t speak about war, it didn’t speak about environmental issues or love. It spoke about the kindness of others above all, a message that perhaps society can learn from.