Read ‘The Martian’ before upcoming movie

I really hate to be that guy, but I’m going to say it anyway: Read “The Martian” the novel before seeing the movie.

“The Martian,” due out Oct. 2, is one of fall’s hotly anticipated films with an all-star cast of Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Michael Pena to go with all-star director Ridley Scott.

But don’t let the movie buzz out the novel. The plot is basically “Apollo 13” on steroids with a hint of MacGyver: Astronaut Mark Watney is hurt and lost in a fierce storm on Mars. His crew reluctantly presumes Watney is dead and evacuates. Left with meager rations and no communication, Watney needs to overcome several obstacles in a fight for survival.

I read “The Martian” at the perfect time: late summer after finishing a disappointing book, one I forced myself to finish after never getting fully emersed. I needed a page turner, something fast-paced, something fun.

Enter “The Martian.”

You’ll need to like a few key things to blast off into this thrill of a read. First, you’ll need to like the main character. The book is largely told from Watney’s perspective on Mars, though there’s several parts about NASA and others. But a solid two-thirds of the book is Watney alone on Mars. You get a lot of him, but he’s an upbeat, likable character, at times almost to a fault. While some may not like the character, it’s hard not to root for him.

If you’re looking for a deep, introspective read, this book doesn’t have time for that. Watney is too busy fighting to survive.

Second, get ready for science. If you’ve watched the trailer for the movie, you’ve seen Damon as Watney saying he’s going to have to “science the [expletive] out of this” to survive (Warning parents, there’s intermittent swearing in the book). Yes, there’s plenty of science in the book, but author Andy Weir avoids making it feel like a textbook-drive homework assignment. The science doesn’t affect the pace. If anything, it made me wish I’d done better in science classes growing up.

Thus far, Weir has earned mostly favorable reviews online for the science and descriptions of Mars terrain online.

But if there’s one reason to read the book first, it’s the payoff. Page turners, just like edge-of-your-seat movies, have a way of hooking you and leading you along until the payoff. Sure, you get a similar payoff from a movie, but it’s more short-lived. An hour of build up pales in comparison to a few hundred pages.

Just like recent buzz book “Gone Girl,” “The Martian” is a book you just don’t want to put down. After finishing “Gone Girl,” I breathed a sigh of relief. After finishing “The Martian,” I felt a bit blue and sad it was over.

 

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