Book Review: the Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir is about Mark Watney, an astronaut on an exploratory mission to mars. The mission has to be aborted because of a massive dust storm. During the storm Mark is hit by a piece of satellite and thrown into the storm. Ultimately, his crew leaves him on mars thinking he is dead. However, Watney is very much alive and finds himself on mars all alone. In The Martian the theme of isolation helps show the loneliness of Watney.

Watney, all alone on mars, starts to keep a daily log. “I don’t even know who’ll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now” (5). At this point, Mark doesn’t think anyone will even realize that he survived, much less rescue him. This creates a sense of isolation that’s both figurative and literal. He’s afraid of not only being abandoned but forgotten.

Whenever Mark goes out on the surface, he gets a brutal reminder of how alone he truly is. “Mars is a barren wasteland and I am completely alone here. I already knew that, of course. But there’s a difference between knowing it and really experiencing it” (101). The Hab provides a certain degree of comfort, although he still can’t communicate with Earth, the mere presence of this man-made building reminds him that there’s a home waiting for him. Unsurprisingly, the barren landscape of Mars has the opposite effect.

After a few months of living on mars, Mark figures out how to communicate with NASA. NASA and Mark are able to send text messages to each other with a thirty minute delay. This communication helped NASA make a plan to come save Watney. However, as soon as they get a plan, Mark accidently overloads the rover called pathfinder, he was using to send the messages by leading exposed drill wires touching the metal table. “Pathfinder operates on 50 milliamps. It got 9000 milliamps, which plowed through the delicate electronics, frying everything along the way. The breakers tipped, but it was too late. Pathfinder’s dead. I’ve lost the ability to contact Earth”(228). After losing communication, Watney suddenly feels isolated again. He starts to struggle with depression and is worried he lost his only chance of going home. He eventually works through this by carrying out what he can remember of NASA’s rescue plan.

Throughout the book the theme of isolation helped show how truly alone Watney was. Watney felt isolated because he was left behind on mars, gained and then lost communication with earth, and because he was all alone on a planet. Dealing with the isolation was hard, but knowing that one day he may be able to return to earth helped him get through it.

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