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The Martian – Why You Should Read the Book

Matt Damon in a space suit as The Martian

The Martian opened this past weekend to positive reviews and box office success. Critics are raving about Matt Damon’s portrayal of Mark Watney, the man left behind on Mars. The movie has done well, having pulled in $54 million in its opening weekend and receiving a 94% audience score on rotten tomatoes, but the question remains…have you read the book? The Martian is based on a novel of the same name by Andy Weir and if the movie is good, the book is great. Whether you’ve already seen the movie or haven’t quite caught it yet, now is a good time to read the book. Here are 5 reasons why you should read The Martian either before or after you see the movie.

Crewmate Communications

The communications between Watney and his crewmates are some of the most enjoyable and insightful parts of his story. In the book, we get more of these including individual messages from Watney to Lewis, Martinez, Beck, Vogel and Johanssen. These messages speak to the personal relationships that Watney has with his crewmates, which are extremely important when trying to illustrate their motivation. These communications help justify why they would be so willing to risk their own lives for Watney’s. They’re also extremely funny and our first insight into an outer space romance only barely touched on in the movie.

The Structure

In the movie, the audience is first introduced to Watney and his crew on the surface of Mars. Watney and Martinez exchange some comical banter and the rest of the crew laughs along just before the storm shows up on radar. Things progress quickly and the storm is soon upon them, resulting in Watney being stranded on the red planet. The novel however, starts quite differently and we don’t actually find out the circumstances surrounding the evacuation until well into the book. Neither approach is better or worse than the other. In fact, both approaches are appropriate to their respective medium but leaving the details of the evacuation out of the intro helped put the focus on Mark’s situation as opposed to the cause. The first line of the novel is great and sets the tone perfectly for the next 543 sols that we have the privilege of spending with Mark Watney.

The Science

Andy Weir has said that he wanted The Martian to be a love letter to science and he absolutely succeeded in his goal. To some, this may not sound all that appealing but the way in which Watney describes each scientific endeavour he undertakes is interesting even to the most scientifically-challenged reader. With every new problem that arises, Watney ponders numerous solutions, tries them, sometimes fails and doesn’t quit until he gets it right. This speaks to his character and his “never say die” attitude that is somewhat illustrated in the film but truly hits home in the book.

The “Mishaps”

The Martian is quite an exciting film even though several of the giant “mishaps” from the novel were omitted. Watney’s time on camera, believe it or not, is extremely less eventful than his time on the page. Yes, the airlock happens in both but when you read the novel you’ll experience another massive storm and even a drill mishap that almost causes the demise of our favorite space pirate. Yar Marky. Yar.

Watney’s Mystery Message

When Watney finally establishes contact with NASA he has an hilarious first exchange with Venkat Kapoor. In true Watney fashion, he manages to slip in some jokes and profanity which prompts Venkat to ask him to watch his language. “Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the world.” he says. In the movie, ground control staff collectively gasp at what Watney’s reply but they don’t show it to the audience. Fortunately in the book, Watney’s response comes in loud and clear for all to read and there’s no way you’ll guess what it is.

Heed our advice Geekos – the movie is good but the book is a must-read. You can grab it from amazon for just $9 (digital or non) here.


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