Archive for September, 2015

The Martian – A novel

Posted in Pai-Book-Review on September 21, 2015 by prajwalpai


If anything can go wrong, it will. This book is one big Murphy’s law in action. Most chapters starts with ‘I am dying’ and ends with ‘yay! I am still alive’.

This book starts with a NASA MARS mission crew member left alone on Mars. This guy is an expert Botanist and specialist Mechanical Engineer. The core of the book is about him facing near-death situations every minute, his survival and resourcefulness. The best part of the book for me is its narration, no character is melodramatic or poetic. The journals are more are less like casual blog entries. The hero is of the book is characterisation of the protagonist and his sense of humour. I think the Space mission crews are mentally conditioned for all possibilities but it can also be argued that one strong-willed people are chosen in the first place. No matter how well the conditioning, preparedness and briefing is, the actual events bringing out the desperation and the will to survive makes this book/story work.

On the other side, this story is set in today’s world and media sensationalism is at work. The whole world is watching the satellite images and chat conversations are aired live. The news channels have a weekly segments and at one point of time the whole world is watching a rescue rendezvous. The whole of NASA is on its toes to come up with a rescue plan. Millions of dollars aside, 2 future NASA missions are put into jeopardy and one Chinese space mission needs to be cancelled to accommodate saving one man. This whole scenario is actually made believable. I was wondering throughout the book , to what extent the world can go to save ‘just’ one life. There are soldiers left to die for without any second thoughts, there are downtrodden dying each day, but with the right motivation a lot can be done just for saving one soul. When the last page of this book echoed this exact question, I felt it was the right conclusion.

The book goes too much into the technical aspects(which is a good thing for sake of credibility) and I think sometimes it’s an imagination overload, I can’t wait for the movie to release.

Ending this blog with my favourite excerpt of the book,

People have been using human waste as fertiliser for centuries. It’s even got a pleasant name: “night soil.” Normally, it’s not an ideal way to grow crops, because it spreads disease: Human waste has pathogens in it that, you guessed it, infect humans. But it’s not a problem for me. The only pathogens in this waste are the ones I already have.

Within a week, the Martian soil will be ready for plants to germinate in. But I won’t plant yet. I’ll bring in more lifeless soil from outside and spread some of the live soil over it. It’ll “infect” the new soil and I’ll have double what I started with. After another week, I’ll double it again. And so on. Of course, all the while, I’ll be adding all new manure to the effort.

My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain.