The Martian by Andy Weir

Posted on: February 19, 2014

I have to tell you up front, this isn’t the typical sort of novel I review here. It is neither apocalyptic nor dystopian. Instead, imagine just for a moment if the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks had taken place not on a deserted island…but a deserted planet.

Mark Watney is an astronaut and part of a team that travels to Mars. They are there to study the rocks and soil and do all the sorts of things astronauts typically do in space. While such missions aren’t necessarily routine within the scope of this book, this team is the third to do so. A freak storm causes the team to scrub the mission soon after landing. As the astronauts scramble to board their ship, Watney is struck by storm debris and separated from the team. He is thought to have been killed and the rest of the crew departs the planet.

Watney, however, isn’t dead. At least, not yet.

He is stranded on Mars, all alone, and with no way to contact either his team or NASA back on Earth. Now, for those of you who don’t remember your science classes, Mars has almost no atmosphere, nor plants or other natural food sources. Watney is forced to improvise with the equipment his team left behind. As the story progresses, he battles with that old scamp Murphy, he of the famous Murphy’s Law, time and again.

Along the way, we are also treated to some truly hysterical writing as Watney is a Class A wise ass. The bulk of the story is told through journal entries Watney writes. In fact, it isn’t until a few chapters in that we are even introduced to any other characters, other than through Watney’s referencing them in his journal. As we go along, though, the reader is given glimpses of what people are doing back home to try and reach Watney, once they learn of his survival.

Being both a botanist as well as an engineer, Watney is uniquely qualified to handle the problems he faces. My understanding is that the story is grounded in real science and everything that happens is at least feasible, rather than outlandish pseudoscience. I don’t have much more than a passing blush of knowledge about astrophysics and such so I’ll have to take others’ words for it.

I loathe spoilers so I won’t tell you how the story ends. Suffice to say, from start to finish this book is a wild ride. I do have to mention a language warning, though. If strong language turns you off a story, you might think twice about this book. While it certainly isn’t cover to cover cuss words, Watney is rather liberal with his use of the F work and such. I can’t say I blame him. If I were stranded on Mars, I’d probably be cursing a fair amount myself.

I truly enjoyed the heck out of The Martian. The author, Andy Weir, has a wonderful ear for dialogue and Watney’s character truly speaks to the reader. You feel his joy and his sorrow and it doesn’t take long at all before you’re rooting for him every step of the way. While this book will really be appreciated by fans of hard science fiction, anyone who enjoys a edge of your seat story will likely enjoy it as well.

You can find it on Amazon here as well as through any bookseller.

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