The Martian by Andy Weir
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Release date: February 2014
Source: Finished hardcover from Blogging for Books
The nitty-gritty: An edge-of-your-seat survival story, a brilliant and sarcastic main character, lots of twists and turns, and a fascinating look at our country’s potential for space travel.
Seriously, this was the best time I had reading a book in a long time. I mean, I’ve read some really good books lately, but The Martian was just so much fun! I wish I had time to read it again, and I wish I could read it again for the first time. I am jealous of all of you out there who haven’t read it yet, because you have that experience to look forward to. Andy Weir can do no wrong in my eyes, and I hope he’s working on his next book right now. When I got back from Comic Con last week and was looking through the event schedule, I discovered that Andy Weir had been on a panel, and I didn’t get to see it! Of course, that was before I read his book, so I may not have gone anyway, but I’m kicking myself right now. Simply put, if you have any love at all for space travel and exploration, you are going to love this book.
In many ways, The Martian reminded me of the 1995 movie Apollo 13, one of my all-time favorite movies, and strangely enough, when I turned on the TV this morning, Apollo 13 had just started playing on TNT! It was fate! I stopped what I was doing and watched the entire movie, which made me want to read The Martian AGAIN.
For those not yet in the know, here’s the story set-up: Mark Watney is an astronaut who has just been stranded on Mars, after the rest of his crew leaves him for dead following an accident that cuts short their mission. Mark tells his story in the form of log entries, using the Martian term “sol” (in place of “day”) to show the progression of time. He wakes up after being severely injured in an explosion and realizes that 1) he’s not dead, and 2) he’s all alone. This sets the stage for a thrilling survival story as Mark attempts to stay alive in the harsh environment of Mars with limited tools and materials—and food—at his disposal.
When a NASA tech named Mindy inadvertently picks up a satellite photo that proves Mark is still alive on Mars, all hell breaks loose as NASA’s mission suddenly becomes urgent: instead of mourning the loss of one of their astronauts, they now have the nearly impossible task of trying to bring him home alive. With the other five members of the Mars mission on their way home—a grueling eleven-month journey—a decision must be made: is there any way to save Mark? And if so, can the crew of the Hermes help?
One of the best parts of this story is Mark Watney himself: a laid-back, extremely intelligent botanist who has a sarcastic streak the size of a Martian crater. His ingenuity may feel over-the-top and unrealistic at times—I mean, that man can do anything! He’s more MacGyver than MacGyver is! But he’s been sent on the Mars mission for a reason. He’s highly intelligent, he’s got mad survival skills, and he’s trained to think fast and calmly in the face of disaster. I don’t think it will be a spoiler to tell you one thing that Mark does: he figures out HOW TO MAKE WATER. I am not joking. And so water—or lack of it—isn’t really a big problem for him. (Oh, don’t worry. He’s got a lot of other problems…)
His sense of humor really shines through, and the book is filled with lines like these:
“I unraveled Martinez’s bed and took the string outside, then taped it to the trailer hull along the path I planned to cut. Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.”
“I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.”
“It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”
“I’ll spend the rest of the evening enjoying a potato. And by ‘enjoying’ I mean ‘Hating so much I want to kill people.’”
The story would have worked well if we’d only had Mark’s log entries to go by, but the author decided to show three main points of view instead, so we get a much more layered story. The narration cuts back and forth between Mark’s log entries, the big-wigs at NASA who are trying to decide the best course of action to save him, and the crew of the Hermes, the ship that’s traveling back to earth with the other five astronauts. Weir manages to give all his characters depth, and I especially loved the parts with the five astronauts—Lewis, Vogel, Beck, Johannson and Martinez—as they come to the realization that Mark is not dead after all, and they must decide what lengths they are willing to go to in order to save him.
The book is filled with technical jargon: mathematics, chemistry, botany and details about mechanical and electrical engineering, all which had the potential to lose me, right-brained human that I am. But despite the pages and pages of intricate descriptions of Mark fixing things and figuring out how not to blow himself up, I was riveted to the page. Even the details that went over my head couldn’t diminish my enjoyment of this story!
The pace kept me turning pages as fast as I could. There are parts where you think, “Wow, things are going really well. Wait. They can’t go well forever, can they?” And guess what. They don’t. Just when you feel you can breathe a sigh of relief, bad shit starts to happen. Luckily, Mark Watney is pretty good at handling unexpected situations.
I didn’t know before I started reading The Martian that it started its life as a self-published book online, and like many self-published success stories, it took several years before it was snapped up by a major publishing house. Now it’s a best-seller and all set to be a movie next fall (allegedly!), starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott (and that’s one movie I’ll wait in line for).
My advice? Read the book first. You won’t regret it.
Big thanks to Blogging for Books for sending me a free review copy. All opinions are strictly my own.
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