Our first responder doesn’t like science fiction, but she liked The Martian by Andy Weir. She thought it read like an adventure story. Another member mentioned that most true science fiction is about make believe science but that this story is using existing possibilities. We had some disagreement and talked about classic authors such as Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov.
We wondered how reliable was the science in the story. A few of us skipped the details or slugged through the science, relieved when the narration added people. One of us had looked up information on the internet from Kahnacademy.org and the University of Texas and found that it worked out. Another of us stumbled on 25 pictures of Mars just two days before our meeting. Someone mentioned North Las Vegas company Bigelow Aerospace, which has developed an inflatable module for the International Space Station. We discussed Elon Musk and his plan for Mars, reminded of stories where the wealthy escape to the stars and leave the rest of us to rot on Earth.
Most of us did not believe the author dealt with the psychological impact of being alone on Mars, although one member liked the diary-style narrative. We discussed how access to 1970s television shows could have made the difference and how Mark’s attitude was the most important to his survival. He was more like a pioneer than shipwrecked. His dual skill as botanist and physicist was essential. None of the other crew members could have survived. And could Mark have survived if similarly lost in the Amazon? Some members thought only a man could have written this book and even believe only men appreciate duct tape. We had an entertaining disagreement then![i]
Only half of us had seen the movie, but we couldn’t help but discuss it also. We found it to be a faithful adaptation. Since the movie did not include all of the adventures from the novel, we stayed interested, even if we had seen the movie first. Though some of Mark’s ordeals seemed more harrowing in the book, one of us noted how unrealistically dramatic the ending for the movie had been.
We also discussed the cost of Mark’s rescue mission. Should we or would we spend the billions of dollars to rescue one individual? Was the scientific knowledge to be gained worth it? Wouldn’t it be great if we could get together internationally to solve world hunger or to educate adequately? Would we have devoted 1/2 hour on the news every night for years? Wouldn’t another disaster or war have redirected our attention? But then we remembered how people step up to give blood and search for the missing during disasters. We remembered the rescue of Baby Jessica. And one of us mentioned The Parable of the Lost Sheep (from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke) in which a shepherd will leave unguarded 99 to rescue just one sheep.
In the last six months, our group has read four adventure stories: The Wright Brothers, Dragon Teeth, The Lost City of the Monkey God, and now, The Martian. I didn’t plan it that way. My goal is for us to read a diverse range of books, balancing between male and female authors, but I am limited to books that are popular enough that we have over twenty copies available in our library district. Sometimes, I am drawn to similarities, stories and concepts that we can compare, just as these selections connect us from the 19th century into our quite possible future, life on Mars. Actually, these are connections that we can make in all of our readings, shared experiences that we will carry with us. Next month, we will read about a strong, talented woman, Shonda Rhimes. I hope you can join us.
- Other Works Discussed:
- Isaac Asimov
- Jules Verne
- Endurance (2017) by Scott Kelley
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Arthur C. Clarke
- Apollo 13 (DVD) 1995
- Elysium (DVD) 2013 starring Matt Damon
- The Martian (DVD) 2015 starring Matt Damon
- David Baldacci The Escape?
- ‘Round Midnight by Laura McBride (local author’s new book)
- In Sunlight or In Shadow (2016) edited by Lawrence Block, stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper.
[i] As an interesting side note, Duck Tape was invented by a woman, Vesta Stoudt, during WWII. https://www.kilmerhouse.com/2012/06/the-woman-who-invented-duct-tape . Also, there were five men and nine women at our meeting.