The Martian


  • On Amazon
  • ISBN: 978-0553418026
  • My Rating: 7/10

What is it about?

Because of a storm the crew of the Ares 3 mission is forced to evacuate from Mars and to get on their way back to Earth. Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind. During the evacuation he got impaled by an antenna and his crewmates believed him to be dead. But it's only a minor injury. When he awakes from his unconsciousness, he finds himself alone on Mars, unable to communicate with Earth or his crewmates. And he knows the next scheduled Mars mission will only arrive in four years...

My impression

I enjoyed The Martian, it reminded me of MacGyver in a Mars setting, with the main character Mark Watney doing all kinds of improvisations with the things at hand to survive on Mars. Though there are too many technical details for my taste. On the other hand I found the book to be a bit too light on the psychological effects on Mark Watney and his crewmates. I expected more on this topic, considering that those people are in very exceptional situations. I also wished there was more character development, everyone except Mark Watney remained rather bland.

Quotes from the book

I awoke to the oxygen alarm in my suit. A steady, obnoxious beeping that eventually roused me from a deep and profound desire to just fucking die.

An ironic death for someone with a leaky space suit: too much oxygen.

I'm stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes [the spaceship] or Earth. Everyone thinks I'm dead. I'm in a Hab designed to last 31 days. 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 happened, I'll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah. I'm fucked.

So that's my mission now. Find a way to communicate with Earth. If I can't manage that, find a way to communicate with Hermes when it returns in 4 years with the Ares 4 crew. Of course, I don't have any plan for surviving 4 years on 1 year of food. But one thing at a time here.

One thing I have in abundance here is bags. They're not much different than kitchen trash bags, though I'm sure they cost $50,000 because NASA.

Martinez is a devout catholic. I knew that. What I didn't know was he brought along a small wooden cross. I'm sure NASA gave him shit about it, but I also know Martinez is one stubborn son-of-a-bitch. I chipped his sacred religious item into long splinters using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. I figure if there's a God, He won't mind, considering the situation I'm in. Ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Mars Vampires. I'll have to risk it.

Monitoring the status of satellites around Mars sounded like an exciting proposition when she took the transfer. But the satellites tended to take care of themselves. Her job turned out to be sending emails as imagery became available.

"If Watney really is alive, we don't want the Ares 3 crew to know." - "What!?" Annie said. "How can you not tell them?" - "They have another ten months on their trip home", Teddy explained. "Space travel is dangerous. They need to be alert and undistracted. They're sad that they lost a crewmate, but they'd be devastated if they found out they'd abandoned him alive."

"They'll be happy to hear their son's alive", Annie said. "Yeah, he's alive", Teddy said. "But if my math is right, he's doomed to starve to death before we can possibly help him."

"What must it be like?" He pondered. "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?"

"You asked my opinion. Don't like it? Go fuck yourself."

It's a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I'm the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn't moved in a million years! I'm the first guy to drive long-distance on Mars. The first guy to spend more than 31 sols on Mars. The first guy to grow crops on Mars. First, first, first! I wasn't expecting to be first at anything.

I'm the first person to be alone on an entire planet.

"But we can send data to Watney, and have him enter it in to the rover." - "How much data are we talking about?" - "I have guys working on the rover software right now. The patch file will be 20 Meg, minimum. We can send one byte to Watney every 4 seconds or so with the 'Speak&Spell'. It'd take three years of constant broadcasting to get that patch across. So that's no good."

I thought a laptop would be fine outside. It's just electronics, right? It'll keep warm enough to operate in the short term, and it doesn't need air for anything. It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the "L" in "LCD" stands for "Liquid". I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I'll post a consumer review. "Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10."

"You know he was telling a joke, right? That was supposed to be funny." - "Oh", said Venkat. "I'm a physics gut, not a computer guy." - "He's not funny to computer guys either."

[12:04] JPL: [...] Also, please watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the world.
[12:15] WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)

Things aren't as bad as they seem. I'm still fucked, mind you. Just not as deeply.

Venkat sat in his darkened office. He never decided to be in the dark. He'd just been lost in thought so long it got dark around him.

"We can have a high chance of killing one person, or a low chance of killing 6 people. Jeez. How do we even make this decision?"

Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.

Mars and my stupidity keep trying to kill me.

If I've learned one thing from my stay at Club Mars, it's that everything can be useful.

Dying would suck, but my crewmates dying would be way worse.

"It's amazing how much red tape gets cut when everyone's rooting for one man to survive."

"He'll pull through, Commander. Have faith." She smiled forlornly. "Rick, you know I'm not religious." - "I know", he said. "I'm not talking about faith in God, I'm talking about faith in Mark Watney. Look at all the shit Mars has thrown at him, and he's still alive. He'll survive this. I don't know how, but he will. He's a clever son-of-a-bitch."

Well, if I could have anything, it would be for the green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars to rescue me so she can learn more about this Earth thing called "lovemaking". It's been a long time since I've seen a woman.

If I get back to Earth, I'll be famous, right? A fearless astronaut who beat all the odds, right? I bet women like that. More motivation to stay alive.

There aren't many people who can say they've vandalized a three billion dollar spacecraft. But I'm one of them. I've been pulling critical hardware out of the MAV [Mars Ascent Vehicle] left and right. It's nice to know that my launch to orbit won't have any pesky backup systems weighing me down.

I'm not improvising anything. I'm following a script sent by NASA, which was set up to make things as easy as possible. Sometimes I miss the days when I made all the decisions myself. Then I shake it off and remember I'm infinitely better with a bunch of geniuses deciding what I do than making shit up as I go along.

[...] apparently I smell like a skunk took a shit on some sweat socks.