Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir
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it was amazing
bookshelves: science-fiction, book-to-film

** spoiler alert **  photo Mars_zps149150c8.jpg

”So that is the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.

If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yea. I’m fucked.”


When I read the line “kind of explode” I couldn’t help thinking of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Total Recall, face contorted, eyes bulging as the oxygen deprived atmosphere of Mars was about to detonate his head.

 photo MarsArnold_zps9948e820.gif
I’ll wait for the next mission to a blue planet thank you very much.

Mark Watney, Mars astronaut, has a lot to worry about. It is hard to say if he has more to worry about than Douglas Quaid/Hauser (Arnold’s character in the movie). At least he doesn’t have people trying to kill him on Mars. In fact, when his fellow astronauts left he effectively became:

EMPEROR OF MARS

It might be the shortest reign in history.

”Mars keeps trying to kill me.”

He amends that thought with:

”Mars and my stupidity keep trying to kill me.”

Watney is far from stupid. He scavenges like a futuristic version of Robinson Crusoe from the left over debris of the Hermes crew’s hasty departure. The incident that “ended” Watney’s life had them in a panic.

”Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

He finds a whole memory stick of seventies sitcoms to keep him occupied and more importantly stuff to keep him alive.

Watney becomes the first farmer on Mars. He knows he doesn’t have enough food to last until the next mission to Mars is scheduled so he has to improvise. Luckily the crew was to be there over the Thanksgiving holiday and for morale purposes NASA sent along potatoes with those all important eyes intact.

”My morning piss goes in a resealable plastic box. when I open it, the rover reeks like a truck-stop men’s room. I could take it outside and let it boil off. But I worked hard to make that water and the last thing I’m going to do is waste it. I’ll feed it to the water reclaimer….

Even more precious is my manure. It’s critical to the potato farm, and I’m the only source on Mars. Fortunately, when you spend a lot of time in space, you learn how to shit in a bag. And if you think things are bad after opening the piss box, imagine the smell after I drop anchor.”


When he finds a way to communicate with Earth in one of his more spectacular MacGuyver moments they tell him that he is going to have to drive to another site where there is a rocket ship, already delivered, waiting for the next mission. He will drive on terrain that looks like this:

 photo marsterrain_zps8fe9b172.jpg

The ship is in Giovanni Schiaparelli’s crater. Watney being Watney has a few juvenile observations about his arrival at the crater.

 photo 078205b0-0e25-4c2d-b2b8-4f2869e1aced_zps7aa1677d.jpg

”Tomorrow night, I’ll sink to an all-new low!

Lemme rephrase that…

Tomorrow night, I’ll be at rock bottom!

No, that doesn’t sound good either….

Tomorrow night, I’ll be in Giovanni Schiaparelli’s favorite hole!

Okay, I admit I’m just playing around now.”


The science is unbelievable and since Andy Weir was a fifteen year old prodigy and is obviously still extremely bright in middle age I have to believe him that he has this all figured out. Watney injects humor as he explains his innovative scientific brilliance which at times had my eyes glazed over trying to keep up. So even as you are getting overwhelmed by the science Weir will elicit an eye roll from the more sophisticated reader. He might even inspire an outright chortle if you are of the low brow variety of humor lovers. I must be more of the pan-humor variety as he elicited a wide range of sniggers, snorts, and raised eyebrows from me.

”I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.”

The one thing that might save your life on Mars, Earth or any other planet you might want to visit is something that NASA didn’t invent.

“Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.”

Watney worships duct tape and given the hairbrained ideas he puts into practice he needs miles and miles of it.

 photo duct-tape-bra1_zpsa1ae8280.jpg
It turns out duct tape has a variety of uses for providing additional support. We are such an ingenious species.

Weir convinced me that Watney could live on Mars for over a year while awaiting rescue. With mangled equipment, a harsh unforgiving terrain, and the ever present, one more thing going wrong, depression that Watney has to overcome everyday, this reader started feeling the pain of failure and the elation of success right along with him. As the world learns he is alive humanity began rooting not for the American to live, but for the human species to triumph.

In the 1970s when I was old enough to watch what NASA was doing and marvelled at our ability to do the impossible. It was a time when absolutely anything seemed achievable. We’d had leadership that insisted that we needed to go to the moon. We still built things, now it feels like the monuments of our times are being built other places. I do think we all miss having a common goal. Something that we all feel we are a part of, something larger than ourselves. With a space program gutted and the idea of a manned mission to Mars staggeringly expensive it makes me realize how lucky I was to grow up in a time when it really felt like the impossible was possible. I’m probably the last of the optimists who still believes that we have to go see it; we have to put our footprint on it; we have to scatter our debris around and say ‘yes we were here’. We need a Mark Watney to be lost on Mars so we have something to cheer for that brings us together as a species.


Besides book reviews I also have started writing movie reviews. These can be found at my blog http://jeffreykeeten.com/
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2014 – Started Reading
February 23, 2014 – Shelved
February 25, 2014 – Finished Reading
May 18, 2015 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 29, 2016 – Shelved as: book-to-film

Comments Showing 1-50 of 99 (99 new)


message 1: by Praj (new)

Praj Fantastic!! Ha! the Total Recall reference cracked me up.It has been ages since I saw that movie. Thanks.


Jeffrey Keeten Praj wrote: "Fantastic!! Ha! the Total Recall reference cracked me up.It has been ages since I saw that movie. Thanks."

I caught part of the movie just the other day and was laughing over all the facial contortions that Arnold has on his face through out the whole movie. It's a fun movie, kitschy, but entertaining. Thanks Praj!


message 3: by Harry (last edited Feb 28, 2014 08:23AM) (new)

Harry Funny review, Jeffrey. Was there a movie of this book as well? I seem to recall seeing a film with a similar scenario. Thanks! My daughter makes purses out of duct tape...quite colorful in that duct tape now comes in a variety of colors and patterns.


Jeffrey Keeten Harry wrote: "Funny review, Jeffrey. Was there a movie of this book as well? I seem to recall seeing a film with a similar scenario. Thanks!"

Drew Goddard has optioned the rights for the movie version. He wrote Cloverfield and directed The Cabin in the Woods that I just by coincidence watched last night. Until The Martian movie comes available there is Gravity to watch. I still haven't seen it, but I hear it is fantastic. Thanks Harry!


message 5: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Stinton Gravity was, indeed, fantastic. I'm pulling for it to win Best Picture. I may have to read The Martian over the weekend in keeping with the theme.


Jeffrey Keeten Dan wrote: "Gravity was, indeed, fantastic. I'm pulling for it to win Best Picture. I may have to read The Martian over the weekend in keeping with the theme."

I hear Twelve Years a Slave has the inside track, but then we won't know until Sunday. I need to watch Gravity tonight or tomorrow.


message 7: by Jeff (new) - added it

Jeff Great review, Jeffrey.

Remember: You're funnier but I'm taller.


message 8: by Ted (new)

Ted A fine review, Jeffrey, though it doesn't convince me that I'd care for the book. Sounds like the plot is extremely unlikely. I'm more interested in getting into Red Mars sometime soon (by a much more serious writer).


Jeffrey Keeten Jeff wrote: "Great review, Jeffrey.

Remember: You're funnier but I'm taller."


Haha Thanks Jeff! I am glad I fit, barely, in normal vehicles.


Jeffrey Keeten Ted wrote: "A fine review, Jeffrey, though it doesn't convince me that I'd care for the book. Sounds like the plot is extremely unlikely. I'm more interested in getting into Red Mars sometime soon..."

Oh no EPIC FAILURE!!! haha I do believe you are right that this book is not a good fit for you. There is serious science in here, way over my head, and Weir does mix in the humor to keep the book from becoming too much for the average reader. Although some reviews have noted the science made it a difficult read for them. Thanks Ted! I want to read Red Mars as well.


message 11: by Lynda (new) - added it

Lynda ROTFL! Thanks for the duct tape hint and 'how to' photo. May come in handy sometime!


message 12: by Ted (new)

Ted Duct tape is also great for preventing blisters when hiking.


message 13: by Lynda (last edited Feb 28, 2014 11:24PM) (new) - added it

Lynda Ted wrote: "Duct tape is also great for preventing blisters when hiking."

Actually, I can relate to that. I do a lot of walking/hiking and duct tape has been a real godsend.


Jeffrey Keeten Lynda wrote: "ROTFL! Thanks for the duct tape hint and 'how to' photo. May come in handy sometime!"

You are most welcome. One never knows when one is out on the town when a duct tape bra might be a life saver. :-)


message 15: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King Jeffrey, What an amazing review and also an amazing subject!


Richard Derus ...and soon to be a major motion picture! What a movie this will make. Or, let me be realistic, what a movie this *could* make.

I really liked your review. I even "like"d it in spite of my collywobbles about giving GR monetizable data. Feel the luuuv, JK, feel the luuuuuv.


Jeffrey Keeten Lynne wrote: "Jeffrey, What an amazing review and also an amazing subject!"

Thank you Lynne! Weir throws a lot of science at us, some of which was simply amazing, but theoretically it is all valid science. It was an interesting experience reading this book. I also really like the cover.


Jeffrey Keeten Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "...and soon to be a major motion picture! What a movie this will make. Or, let me be realistic, what a movie this *could* make.

I really liked your review. I even "like"d it in spite of my collywo..."


This *could* be an absolutely fabulous movie!! I am honored Richard and do feel the luuuuv. You have absolutely made my day!


Richard Derus I think the announcement of the plans was on Giant Freakin Robot...I'll see if I can locate it and post it here.


message 20: by Ted (new)

Ted (view spoiler) 8)


Jeffrey Keeten Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "I think the announcement of the plans was on Giant Freakin Robot...I'll see if I can locate it and post it here."

That would be great Richard. Thanks!


Richard Derus Jeffrey wrote: "Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "I think the announcement of the plans was on Giant Freakin Robot...I'll see if I can locate it and post it here."

That would be great Richard. Thanks!"


http://www.slashfilm.com/tag/andy-weir/

Slashfilm, not Giant Freakin Robot. Cabin in the Woods wasn't an awful movie....


Jeffrey Keeten Ted wrote: "I'm afraid I find the idea that an expedition would leave someone behind preposterous. That must have taken a great deal of explaining in the book. Frankly I would think the rest of them would rath..."

(view spoiler)


Jeffrey Keeten Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "I think the announcement of the plans was on Giant Freakin Robot...I'll see if I can locate it and post it here."

That would be great Richard. Th..."


I just watched Cabin in the Woods this week. I thought it was fun, of course, Joss Whedon had a hand in that movie which was what put it on my radar.


Steve For a book set on Mars, it seems there's an earthiness to it. Good stuff, Jeffrey!


message 26: by John (new)

John Behle Hello Jeffrey--just look at the number of Earth based people who have signed up to, if need be, to travel to Mars even with no return trip. To die this solar system powered life as a Martian is the greatest challenge for those.


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "For a book set on Mars, it seems there's an earthiness to it. Good stuff, Jeffrey!"

Thanks Steve!


Jeffrey Keeten John wrote: "Hello Jeffrey--just look at the number of Earth based people who have signed up to, if need be, to travel to Mars even with no return trip. To die this solar system powered life as a Martian is th..."

Hey as a policy I don't travel or invade without an exit strategy. :-) If I go out there my first question is how do I get back. My second question is how easy is it to read in space. Thanks John!


Marty Good review. Glad you included The total recall visual, because that is what popped into my mind as well.

The only thing I was wondering in this book was, why not plants some other food? I was sure I read he had other seeds, but simply went with potatoes because they were the best choice.

In any case, I also wanted to mention that I have read the Red Mars trilogy. IMO the politics destroyed what was otherwise spectacular series. One minute I was in complete awe, the next thoroughly disgusted by the characters and the stupid political games they played.

By contrast, the childish humor of Mark Watney (Iron Man, Lewis, IRON MAN! ) was so refreshing. Just what I needed.


Jeffrey Keeten Marty wrote: "Good review. Glad you included The total recall visual, because that is what popped into my mind as well.

The only thing I was wondering in this book was, why not plants some other food? I was su..."


I don't remember him saying they had other seeds Marty. I know the only reason they had "live" potatoes was for moral purposes over the Thanksgiving holiday. Pound for pound potatoes are one of the best things to plant for the biggest return in calories in carbs for the investment of his "fertilizer" and water.

I tried the Mars series and soon tired of the focus on the political aspects. (I like reading about American politics, but in the Mars series the whining was outrageously boring.) I recently tossed Red Mars aside after about 125 pages and will not return.

This was such a better book than I expected. Thanks Marty.


Minke Y. good


Jeffrey Keeten Minke wrote: "good"

Thanks Minke!


message 33: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Bartusiak Awesome review Jeffrey! The photos and images are so on the mark. I'm on the waiting list for this one at the local library...now I'm even more anxious to get it.


message 34: by Dolors (new)

Dolors All the reactions Weir's novel provoked in you sort of echoed in me through your review, Jeffrey. You had me smiling, chuckling and gaping at the enormity of it all, closing the show with a priceless optimistic tone and a very humbling reflection. You're a magician combining, duct tape words, emotions and the visual arts. How had I missed this one? Thanks for the ride to Mars, can't think of a more invigorating way to start my day!:)


Jeffrey Keeten Paul wrote: "Awesome review Jeffrey! The photos and images are so on the mark. I'm on the waiting list for this one at the local library...now I'm even more anxious to get it."

You are going to have a blast reading this. He will even convince you that someone can survive on Mars for a year. The blood red moon last night reminded me of that picture of Mars. Thank you Paul!


Jeffrey Keeten Dolors wrote: "All the reactions Weir's novel provoked in you sort of echoed in me through your review, Jeffrey. You had me smiling, chuckling and gaping at the enormity of it all, closing the show with a pricele..."

As long as you keep duct tape with you on your adventures Dolors you will always have the means to fix a leaky radiator hose, patch your sleeping bag, or fashion yourself a bra. A toothbrush and duct tape are essentials for any journey.

This book was an impulse buy and I'm so glad that my other conservative nature didn't win out. Weir took me on a journey and now I'm glad my review gave you a bit of escapism before the reality of work. Thank you Dolors!


James Thane Very nice review, Jeffrey. I really liked this one a lot too.


Jeffrey Keeten James wrote: "Very nice review, Jeffrey. I really liked this one a lot too."

Thanks James!


Brie Allen I nomele love the other spas so it just looked relly good I jus don't no what to say


Jeffrey Keeten Brie Allen wrote: "I nomele love the other spas so it just looked relly good I jus don't no what to say"

I'm glad you enjoyed it Brie Allen.


Janet Most entertaining review. EVER.


Jeffrey Keeten Janet wrote: "Most entertaining review. EVER."

Ahhh shucks, you've put a thrill in my day. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you!


message 43: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Bartusiak Had to wait a while for this one 'cause I was pretty far down on the waiting list at the local library. I actually got the ebook version first, but apparently the library bought a version that is not readable directly in the Kindle App or the Apple Ipad app, so would have had to have read it through a browser (which I wasn't interested in). At least this is what my daughters insisted when they downloaded it on their devices, and I didn't have the desire to challenge them (they get agitated when I question their positions on such matters). So, I almost read my first ebook, but alas, I've fallen back to the hardcover paper version...ahh bliss. It'll be interesting to refer back to your review after I finish reading it (hopefully I can before the library starts hounding me because my two weeks are up...I'm so old fashioned in some regards).


Jeffrey Keeten Paul wrote: "Had to wait a while for this one 'cause I was pretty far down on the waiting list at the local library. I actually got the ebook version first, but apparently the library bought a version that is ..."

I've read only a few ebooks, but I always feel that blissfulness you referred to when I have an actual book in my hands. Reading, for me, is always more than just words. I hope you get as many laughs out of this one as I did.


message 45: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael "I’m probably the last of the optimists who still believes that we have to go see it; we have to put our footprint on it; we have to scatter our debris around and say ‘yes we were here’. We need a Mark Watney to be lost on Mars so we have something to cheer for that brings us together as a species" - I agree


Jeffrey Keeten Epicurus wrote: ""I’m probably the last of the optimists who still believes that we have to go see it; we have to put our footprint on it; we have to scatter our debris around and say ‘yes we were here’. We need a ..."

Thanks Epicurus! It is nice to see the ancient Greek philosopher still knocking around on GR.


message 47: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Haha. You're the first to point that out. I can't predict exactly what Epicurus would say about pursuing a landing on Mars, but it won't prevent me from trying. I think our long dead philosopher friend would have told the crew not to fear death and to remember that the universe is infinite and eternal.


message 48: by Maria (new)

Maria A fantastic voyage into Jeffrey's review! Thanks for the tip on duct tape, I guess with this and a towel (an essential according to The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy) will have me ready for my next trip to space!


Jeffrey Keeten Epicurus wrote: "Haha. You're the first to point that out. I can't predict exactly what Epicurus would say about pursuing a landing on Mars, but it won't prevent me from trying. I think our long dead philosopher ..."

Here, here, on point kind sir. Have you read the book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern?
It was nice to see our mutual friend highlighted in that book as well.


Jeffrey Keeten Maria wrote: "A fantastic voyage into Jeffrey's review! Thanks for the tip on duct tape, I guess with this and a towel (an essential according to The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy) will have me ready for my ne..."

A towel and duct tape should see you through most emergencies. :-) Thanks Maria I was glad you were able to come along for the ride to Mars.


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