A & E

Published on June 6th, 2017 | by Eliza Bernstein


The Martian Review

What do space, potatoes and the strength of the human spirit all have in common? The answer to this strange question is that they are all significant aspects of Samo’s summer reading book, Andy Weir’s critically-acclaimed sci-fi epic “The Martian.”

With the help of the Samo science teachers, this space adventure was chosen because, starting next school year, Samo alumni Randy Bresnik (’85) will be engaging in Skype sessions with our school from his post on the International Space Station.

“The Martian” tells the unique story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, who has been abandoned on Mars by his crewmates who, after an intense dust storm, presume him to be dead. When the book begins, Mark believes that he will die very quickly due to the fact that the resources he still has with him are by no means able to sustain life for very long, let alone the four years that it will take for the next expedition to come to Mars. However, after this initial bout of doubt Watney quickly becomes determined to do anything that he can in order to stay alive.

In his struggle to survive, Mark faces many challenges that at first glance seem insurmountable, but time after time he uses his quick wits and convenient skills in both botany and mechanical engineering to find ways to overcome them. Each obstacle that appears in Mark’s way seems more and more impossible to conquer, but Weir instills hope in the reader through this repetition and proves that even against the odds, it is possible to succeed.

Additionally, a prominent theme in the novel is human compassion, which in our current political and social climate is reassuring to be reminded of. On the last page of the novel, Mark says: “Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.” Despite the fact that the cold terrain of Mars differs greatly from our own sunny Santa Monica, this theme is truly universal.

The story is told from a first person point of view through logs written by the protagonist, Mark Watney, who shares his story with a very casual and humorous tone. Despite the novel’s serious subject matter, Watney quickly begins to feel like just one of your friends, sharing a story from a crazy night out.

Although the novel has a very engaging plot and tells an incredible story, I have to admit that it is not an easy read, under any circumstances. The novel is very dense, goes into great detail on almost every subject featured in it, and contains many references to astronautics, engineering and chemistry, which do not fall under the realm of common knowledge and can be difficult to comprehend. In spite of this, Mark Watney’s story of space survival is one worth reading, and is more applicable than one would imagine to the life of a Samo student.

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