1. How did The Martian challenge your expectations of
what the novel would be? What did you find most surprising about
2. 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?
3. Do you believe the crew did the right thing in abandoning the
search for Mark? Was there an alternative choice?
4. Did you find the science and technology behind Mark's
problem-solving accessible? How did that information add to the
realism of the story?
5. 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?
6. What is your visual picture of the surface of Mars, based on
the descriptions in the book? Have you seen photographs of the
7. 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?
8. 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?
9. 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
10. 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?
11. 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?
12. 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?
13. 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?
14. Did you believe the commitment of those on Earth to rescuing
one astronaut? What convinced you most?
15. 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?
16. 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
17. 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?
18. 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.
19. 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?
20. 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