I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately, and instead of listening to the same twenty songs on every radio station I pass, I’ve opted for an Audible subscription, so I can entertain myself with audiobooks. My first choice was The Martian, by Andy Weir. The Martian follows in a well-established heritage of survivalist fiction, but in a way that counts as science fiction. There’s a movie coming out next month starring Matt Damon and a bunch of other famous actors, which is what initially inspired me to “read” the book. The premise for The Martian is simple: American astronaut Mark Watney is left for dead on the surface of Mars when his team is forced to flee a massive dust storm… except whoops, Mark’s actually alive. What follows is a story of questions: Can Mark survive? Will he ever be able to contact Earth, and if he does, can he even survive long enough to come and get him? How much is one person’s life worth, anyway?
I won’t spoil the ending for you, I promise. But I do want to take a look at how The Martian is a wonderful, thought-provoking new addition to the world of science fiction on multiple levels. Science fiction isn’t just about advanced technology and space stuff; the real hallmark of the genre pushes for answers to the big questions of life in new ways. It imagines what could be, not what is. The Martian has a universal quality to its story, and that’s what makes it a success.
Minor spoilers for The Martian below the jump.