While hauling my earthly goods from California to Colorado, I listened to the audiobook version of The Martian by Andy Weir. I was intrigued by the self-published success story, and decided to give it a go. You should too, it’s a fantastic book. Here’s a blurb, paraphrased from the Amazon product description:
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, [astronaut Mark Watney] finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive…. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”
My wife and I loved the central character so much, we started saying I was Mark Watney-ing whenever I’d creatively solve a problem around the house. It’s the new MacGyver-ing.
Now then, beyond a simple book recommendation, I have a theory about the book. Very, very minor spoilers follow. As someone who hates spoilers, trust me, you’re fine.
I originally described this book to friends as, “a near-future where we’ve started manned missions to Mars,” but upon further reflection, I’m going to update that stance. It’s not a near-future, it’s an alternate-present. All the technology for these fictional Ares missions currently exists. The only problem is that we haven’t spent billions of dollars on space travel and Mars research.
Here it is, my theory on The Martian: In the story-world, the September 11th attacks never happened. Instead, we spent all of those billions of dollars funding NASA and manned missions to Mars.
Think about it. There’s never a mention of a terrorism. There’s never a mention of 9/11. There’s never a mention of tightened regulations, security, or a slashed NASA budget. The world comes together on a cooperative level with such ease, it fits the political atmosphere of an America that hasn’t been at war for well over a decade.
The Martian takes place in a parallel universe where there is no Global War on Terror.
For those who’ve read the book, I’d love to hear what you think about my theory, or if you have any theories of your own. Do you think it’s an alternate-present where there was no recession either? And if you haven’t read the book yet, don’t forget to check back in once you do!