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Read This When: You Miss Human Contact

Given recent events, it’s more than understandable how you might miss the feeling of being around other humans. You miss meeting up for lunch with friends, small talk with classmates before lectures, maybe even your family if you weren’t fortunate enough to be quarantined together. Trips to the grocery store once every two weeks simply isn’t enough socialization. However, this quarantine is absolutely necessary for all of our sake—so if you’re missing human contact, you’re probably doing something right.

It definitely gets boring at home, though. Once you’ve burned through enough Netflix and recipes on YouTube, perhaps it’s time to pick up a book. I have the perfect recommendation and it’s about the ultimate social distancer.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir is about astronaut Mark Watney being stranded on Mars, millions of miles away from home. His initial mission was supposed to last two months with a team of five other people, but was abruptly cut short at only six days when an intense dust storm hit. 

During the rushed escape, Watney was violently impaled with a communication antenna, leading his teammates to believe he was dead. They chose to leave him on Mars, determining the risk was too high to retrieve his body. Yet he survived, and is now stranded on the red planet by himself with no way of contacting Earth or his team.

In addition to the isolation that being on another planet brings, Watney faces a variety of threats to his survival. From more dust storms, to food shortages, to technology malfunctions, Mars is absolutely relentless; the smallest slip ups can lead to death. Left to his own devices, Watney is forced to think his way through all of the situations that arise from being alone on Mars.

My favorite aspect of this book is how it was written by a total nerd—and I mean this in the best way possible. Weir began work as a computer programmer at the age of 15. If this itself wasn’t enough, he was the only son of a physicist and an electrical engineer, and was essentially raised off science fiction novels. 

Throughout the plot, his background prominently shows not only through nerd references, but also through the acute details of events. Before its physical release, “The Martian” was only found online, and readers (who were often fellow scientists and engineers) would often message Weir to correct any errors in the scientific calculations that took place. He would then rewrite any discrepancies in his work to remain as accurate as possible. It’s clear Weir values realism, which makes the read even more engrossing.

Photo by Alexis Brown from Unsplash Alright, bear with me. This book may sound like a nerd’s pipe dream, but the narration alone should be enough for anyone to read. Told in the first person point of view, his stream of consciousness style of writing is utterly hilarious given the circumstances our protagonist is in. 

It’s relatable in the way that Watney never ceases to lose his sense of humor despite lacking human contact for months. He references this feeling of loneliness plenty of times throughout the novel: “Mars is a barren wasteland and I am completely alone here. I already knew that, of course. But there’s a difference between knowing it and really experiencing it.”

This is a strange time where we may find ourselves lonely. Though being stranded on Mars is a longshot from being trapped inside your own home, “The Martian” is a great book to get your mind off the current whirlwind of events, even if only for a little bit. It’s witty, fast paced, and surprisingly suspenseful; I couldn’t put it down the entire time I was reading it. 

On the surface, it’s a story about a smart mouthed astronaut thrown into crazy situations and forced to come up with even crazier solutions; but if you want to investigate this further, it’s about being resourceful and holding onto hope, even when you’re alone. In the words of Watney, “Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’m not dead, so it’s a win.”

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