Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Print length: 369
My rating: 3.5
Mark Watney is a brilliant botanist and mechanical engineer selected by NASA to be among six astronauts who go on the Ares mission to Mars. During the mission, the team endures a severe storm on the planet’s surface and the team is forced to abort the mission and return to earth. There’s just one small problem—only five astronauts make it back into space. During the storm, Watney is left on Mars where he will struggle to maintain the most basic elements of survival; food, oxygen, and shelter. Armed with nothing but the mission’s abandoned equipment and his own humor, Watney must use his knowledge and guile to survive the laws of nature and a relentless planet which seems to want him dead. Will his ingenuity and training be enough to keep him alive until he can be rescued?
This book has humble beginnings. It was originally self published in 2011 as Andy Weir’s debut novel. It was then released on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents where it quickly rose to the top of Amazon’s best selling science fiction novels. It was quickly picked up by a publishing company and re-released in 2014. A film adaptation is set for release on October 2, 2015 starring Matt Damon.
Author Andy Weir is a genius, a software engineer by day and an unapologetic sci-fi nerd by night. His hobby and passion from a young age has been the study of space travel, orbital mechanics, and relativistic physics. His knowledge of manned spaceflight and NASA operations makes this book so believable that he immediately garners the trust of his readers.
This book can hold its own against other captivating lone-survivor stories like that of “Hatchet” and motion pictures “Castaway” and “Moon.” One of the things that sets it apart from other stories in this genre is its unmatchable technicality and attention to scientific detail. The roller coaster of events that take place in the story are based on current technology, and are therefore, very realistic. This is both an asset and a detriment to the accessibility of the novel as a whole.
For those space-geeks who want to read page after page of math, like how much human waste it will take to fertilize so many square feet of ground, and how many potatoes those square feet will yield, and how many days those potatoes can keep a grown man alive (based on calories per kilogram and human exertion)—you get the point—than this book is for you. While the book is not short on suspenseful scenes, it can be arduous and some readers may find themselves skimming for the next piece of action.
Despite the fascinating science involved, the novel wanes when it comes to character development. While Watney eventually becomes a believable character—he finally cries about his situation one hundred and some pages into the book—the potential for strong character exploration and development of the Ares team is never actuated. In addition to this disappointment, the book’s climax takes place in the last handful of pages. For all the time we sit with Watney on Mars desperately awaiting rescue, I would imagine the outcome should be more substantive than a few pages.
Despite these critiques, the novel is a brilliant mark in science fiction literature. Readers who enjoy this genre should add this to their reading list.
Oh, and if language is a deal-breaker when it comes to a novel, steer clear of Mark Watney. You won’t enjoy the company of his colorful humor. Check out the movie trailer here.