Nov 30, 2015

"The Martian" Movie Review

I saw the movie "The Martian" last week and thought it was an excellent fictional story about an astronaut who is stranded on Mars after his fellow crew members thought he had been killed in a storm. I almost didn't go because it stars Matt Damon, who is an outspoken twit on various political issues. But in the end, the promise of a good story won out. Plus, I'm a sucker for good space or science fiction storylines.

After the show, I read a small article in the local paper about Andy Weir, who wrote the book on which the film is based. I was surprised to learn he grew up in Davis and is now a computer engineer in the Silicon Valley area. The story about how he came to write his novel was also interesting.

Weir is both a sci-fi fan and a scientific geek who was trying to write a scrupulously researched, technically accurate novel. He started publishing it, chapter by chapter, as web posts. As he progressed, he invited other scientists -- IT engineers, rocket scientists, exo-biologists, astronomers, etc. -- to comment and help him tweak the scientific details. It didn't hurt that NASA's Ames research center is based near Silicon Valley. His online following eventually grew and, as he completed the story, people began asking him to publish the full novel as an Amazon e-book.

Shortly after it was on Amazon, it jumped to near the top in unit sales for self-published e-books. That caught the attention of a literary agent, who within a couple of weeks got him a deal with a major publisher. In the same week he signed with the publisher, a Hollywood producer offered to buy the film rights.

Great personal success story, as well an an interesting space yarn.

My stepson saw the movie two nights ago and rated it as one of the best space movies he's seen -- right up there with the dramatization of the Apollo 13 mission starring Tom Hanks.

-Don Martensen MPHS Jan 66

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