Discussion (SPOILERS)- The Martian by Andy Weir

CHRISTINA’S QUESTIONS

What did you think of the humor? Did you think it was low brow or cheap? Did you think it was below his intelligence? One critical review referred to his humor as cutesie zingers. Do you agree? Do you expect someone with Mark Watney’s level of education to be more serious?

What do you think the purpose of the log entries was? Why do you think they were so casual? Why do you think the author did that? Why would Mark Watney do that?

Did you find the sections repetitive? For example, things are going well, he encounters a problem, he fixes it and he’s good. Next chapter, repeat.

Did you think there was a lack of introspection? Why do you think Weir did this? Do you think the main character was well developed? Why or why not? In the trailer of the movie, he has a family. Why do you think he does not in the book?

Did The Martian read like a screenplay? Do you think Weir wrote it with a movie in mind from the very beginning?

The reader never sees Mark Watney break down emotionally. Why do you think that is? Did this bother you?

Were you worried when Mark Watney’s section started changing between first person and third person? Did you think it meant he was going to die? Do you think of it as a red herring? If not, why would the author do this?

Do you think the crew did the right thing when they left without visual confirmation that Mark Watney was dead? Why or why not? Do you think they could have done anything else? If so, what?

Do you agree with the director’s decision NOT to tell the crew that Mark Watney was a live? Why or why not?

Each astronaut took material for entertainment. You can store tens of thousands of songs on a relatively small memory card, but if you were only allotted a small amount of space, relatively speaking of course, what kind of music, books or television shows/ movies would you take?

While Mark Watney’s survival absolutely depended on quite a bit of scientific knowledge, if you were in an emergency situation by yourself that did not require this type of knowledge, but did require you to be emotionally strong and extremely creative, do you think you would be able to survive? Do you think this is a nature versus nurture situation? For example, do you think some people are predisposed to acting in an emergency while others are predisposed to just give up? Or do you think it depends on external factors, such as how you were brought up, training, etc.?

SOME PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS

“The worst moments in life are heralded by small observations.” Do you agree?

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.” Do you agree?

QUESTIONS ISSUED BY PUBLISHER

How did The Martian challenge your expectations of what the novel would be? What did you find most surprising about it?

What makes us root for a character to live in a survival story? In what ways do you identify with Mark? How does the author get you to care about him?

Do you believe the crew did the right thing in abandoning the search for Mark? Was there an alternative choice?

Did you find the science and technology behind Mark’s problem-solving accessible? How did that information add to the realism of the story?

What are some of the ways the author established his credibility with scientific detail? Which of Mark’s solutions did you find most amazing and yet believable?

What is your visual picture of the surface of Mars, based on the descriptions in the book? Have you seen photographs of the planet?

Who knew potatoes, duct tape, and seventies reruns were the key to space survival? How does each of these items represent aspects of Mark’s character that help him survive?

How is Mark’s sense of humor as much a survival skill as his knowledge of botany? Do you have a favorite funny line of his?

To what extent does Mark’s log serve as his companion? Do you think it’s implicit in the narrative that maintaining a log keeps him sane?

The author provides almost no back story regarding Mark’s life on Earth. Why do you think he made this choice? What do you imagine Mark’s past life was like?

There’s no mention of Mark having a romantic relationship on Earth. Do you think that makes it easier or harder to endure his isolation? How would the story be different if he was in love with someone back home?

Were there points in the novel when you became convinced Mark couldn’t survive? What were they, and what made those situations seem so dire?

The first time the narrative switched from Mark’s log entries to third-person authorial narrative back on Earth, were you surprised? How does alternating between Mark’s point of view and the situation on Earth enhance the story?

Did you believe the commitment of those on Earth to rescuing one astronaut? What convinced you most?

To what extent do you think guilt played a part in the crew’s choice to go back to Mark? To what extent loyalty? How would you explain the difference?

How does the author handle the passage of time in the book? Did he transition smoothly from a day-to-day account to a span of one and a half years? How does he use the passage of time to build suspense?

Unlike other castaways, Mark can approximately predict the timing of his potential rescue. How does that knowledge help him? How could it work against him?

When Mark leaves the Hab and ventures out in the rover, did you feel a loss of security for him? In addition to time, the author uses distance to build suspense. Discuss how.

Where would you place The Martian in the canon of classic space exploration films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13, and Gravity? What does it have in common with these stories? How is it different?

A survival story has to resonate on a universal level to be effective, whether it’s set on a desert island or another planet. How important are challenges in keeping life vital? To what extent are our everyday lives about problem-solving and maintaining hope?

BEST QUOTES?

Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.” LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.

It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.

Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person. What do you know? I’m in command.

If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.

[11:49] JPL: What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We’re assuming the other side is identical. You’re cleared to start drilling. [12:07] Watney: That’s what she said. [12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?

Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated), if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside anymore.

Everything went great right up to the explosion.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’m not dead, so it’s a win.

I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the best botanist on the planet.

The battery was a lithium thionyl chloride non-rechargeable. I figured that out from some subtle clues: the shape of the connection points, the thickness of the insulation, and the fact that it had “LiSOCl2 NON-RCHRG” written on it.

“Anything, Tim?” “Totally,” he replied. “But we’re staring at this black screen because it’s way more interesting than pictures from Mars.” “You’re a smart-ass, Tim,” Venkat said. “Noted.”

It was right where I left it, in a hole four kilometers away. Only an idiot would keep that thing near the Hab. So anyway, I brought it back to the Hab.

For tonight, I have to get back to Three’s Company. I stopped last night in the middle of the episode where Mr. Roper saw something and took it out of context.

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