Due to a tragic accident, a single NASA astronaut is left behind on the planet Mars. A rescue mission will take four years to reach him but he only has supplies for thirty days.
Recently whilst occupying my hobby of being a film nerd, I came across some new pictures released to promote the film ‘The Martian’. It stars Matt Damon as the titular character and has been directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Bladerunner). This piqued my interest especially when I read the synopsis.
During ARESIII, a manned mission to Mars, the crew have to abandon the planet due to an incoming violent dust storm that unfortunately their temporary housing wasn’t built to withstand. Whilst everyone is making their way back to the spacecraft, a crew member called Mark Whitney is unfortunately impaled by a large antennae blown off their Martian habitat building.
Believing him to be dead, the rest of the crew jump into the spacecraft and make their return to the orbiting ship high above the Martian surface. The mission commander wants to go back for him but she knows that this would endanger the whole crew but it doesn’t lessen her guilt.
It’s soon revealed that Mark isn’t dead thanks to a fortuitous set of circumstances. His bio computer was smashed in the accident which is why the rest of the crew believed him to be dead.
He returns to the habitat and takes stock of his situation. The good news is that the Martian house designed by NASA contains both air and water recycling units that run from power supplied by roof mounted solar panels.
The bad news is that his ration packs, his only supply of food, will only last thirty days. Mark knows that a manned mission to come and rescue him won’t arrive for another four years at the earliest.
This is of course a fleshed out description having already read the book. It’s as much as I’m going to reveal here as the book is full of surprises. Each one had me screaming in frustration and only had me turning the pages faster to reveal the outcome.
The story is told via three groups of people. Mark who is our main protagonist, the crew of the Hermes travelling back to Earth and what’s occurring back home, although obviously this is restricted to mostly the events happening within NASA.
Whilst the story is written in the traditional third person perspective, for many parts of the story Mark loses radio contact with Earth. Just in case anyone does manage to come for him and unfortunately he doesn’t make it, he writes a daily diary to record his actions and a large portion of the book uses these logs to move the story along. Luckily Mark has a great sense of humour about the whole situation and his entries are always enjoyable to read.
Once I read the synopsis for the film and discovered it was based on a novel, I had to rush out a find a copy (or send my internet browser to Amazon!) and I’m glad I did. I read the book in any spare moment I had and got through it around two and a half days, a sure sign that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Yes I may have now spoiled a film that doesn’t set to open until November, but I can’t wait to see how Ridley Scott has adapted this to the big screen and I thoroughly recommend the book as well.