Author: Andy Weir
Published: Self-published in 2011, Rights purchased and re-released under Crown Publishing in 2014
What Is ‘The Martian’ About?
Keeping it spoiler free… NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, is left stranded on Mars when his crewmates are forced to abandon their remote facility during an intense dust storm. Watney is struck by debris during the evacuation and his fellow astronauts believe him to be dead.
When Watney wakes he is alone on the surface of Mars. He has limited food supplies, no contact with NASA and his crewmates are on a spacecraft headed for Earth.
The story has three main perspectives: Watney’s log entries on the surface of Mars, NASA’s meetings and intelligence gathering back on Earth, and Watney’s crewmates aboard the spacecraft Hermes.
Why Did I Read ‘The Martian’?
Firstly, I saw this:
Ridley Scott’s next film is going through the early stages of its promotion and struck me as the sort of story I’d like to read.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a true science fiction novel and fate stepped in when a friend at work handed me a copy of the novel.
What I Liked About ‘The Martian’
Considering this was Andy Weir’s first novel and was self published to begin with: This novel is a triumph and deserves the recognition it’s got / getting. I say that because I’m sure there would have been moments during the writing of this story where Weir would have wondered what he was doing. There are numerous instances where Mark Watney has to calculate a very specific formula to a very unique issue, which is to say that Weir would have had to have researched for days to calculate a solution to a made up issue. He then had to break it down and articulate it clearly in to log entries for the reader to digest.
After a while I found Mark’s character inspiring. Almost every task he undertakes doesn’t go to plan, but he keeps moving forward. It puts you on edge, fearfully waiting for things to turn bad. Really quite suspenseful in parts.
Also, Weir had to think up some creative ways of staging the drama in the limited format of log entries and I found the ending genuinely moving.
What I Didn’t Like About ‘The Martian’
I’ve done some digging and apparently, at the time of writing this novel, Andy Weir was a programmer who had studied computer science. He also worked on World of Warcraft 2. When you know this it explains the technical mindset he would have had to his research. It also explains the ‘geeky’ humour that on occasion falls a little flat.
Watney’s log entries are where the magic is happening. The sections of the story that take place back on Earth are ‘functional’. Weir switches to third person for the NASA bits and doesn’t waste any time describing the environments in detail or giving you enough information to help visualise the characters. Some of these sections read a bit like a screenplay.
Good Or Bad?
Was this book any good? Yes, definitely… And unique, very unique.
Would I recommend it? Yes. I’ve read that people describe this as Apollo 13 meets Castaway, and that’s accurate. If you like either of those films (especially Apollo 13) it’s likely that you’ll enjoy reading this.
Would I read it again? Probably not, but I’m looking forward to watching the film.
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David P. Philip