Fact v. Nonfiction: The Martian

This semester I read The Martian by Andy Weir which was also a movie but the movie sucked and the book was amazing. Obviously, the plot was fiction, but both my friend and I ended up having to google if it actually happened when we got halfway through the book because it all just seemed so real. What made it seem so real was not the plot itself, but the realistic ways in which Mark Watney handled the isolation. When I read the back cover, and heard the plot of the movie, I was expecting some sort of life-changing journey through discovery and isolation like other famous works like the Revenant. What I got, however, was something so purely funny that it could only be true. The kind of humor in the book was so situational – such as being a space-pirate – that I could not imagine these kinds of jokes just being thought up at a desk.

I’m not sure how real the science is in the book, but it was explained in such depth and so often that I thought that there was no way this could be made up. The reason I actually got my hands on the book is because my mom read the first chapter and complained about it being a chemistry lesson. But it all made so much sense and there was even humor in the science, that again, I didn’t suspect anybody could have sat down and created a situation that required so much knowledge of science and a great sense of humor. In my experience, the two traits don’t coincide much.

What also made it seem so real was the pop-culture references, such as old disco music I didn’t recognize and old shows like Happy Days. I think especially these days with copyright lawsuits and the like, it’s rarer and rarer that we’re seeing brand names on tv, so I at least have associated real-life references to non-fiction. Putting the real world into the novel made it seem more realistic.

One element that made it more fictional was the change in point of view. The non-fiction-seeming parts were from Watney’s point o f view, as he did all the science. What drew me out of that realm, but was still well-written, were the portions of the story that switched to what was happening at NASA to bring him back home. Generally, non-fiction is told from one point of view. This is because everyone sees fact differently, and what might be fact to one person is made up to someone else who experienced the same thing. While that couldn’t really happen with such a fact-based, scientific novel, it still took me out of the main character’s head and reminding me that it wasn’t real.

 

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