Review: ‘The Martian’


The_Martian_2014Let it be known that I was unaware when I began to read The Martian that author Andy Weir had written a novel by a nerd for nerds. Due to a rather lengthy stint reading non-fiction, I had also forgotten how much I enjoy reading science fiction. Not only is The Martian chock full of nerdy goodness, but it’s also well written. I am more than pleased that my first sci-fi book in quite some time was The Martian

Brief Synopsis: Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars. Mars is not hospitable to human life. Mark has to find a way to survive or die trying. To make matters worse, everyone else thinks he’s dead. So if he wants to survive he has to find a way to phone home and have NASA send a cab. You know, before he runs out of little things like food, water, air…life.

There >are a lot of fantastic things about The Martian. The nerdy goodness is sprinkled liberally throughout the book in the form of physics, geology, technology, chemistry, botany, as well as history of space travel, and astrophysics. There is never a point in the story where the reader forgets that our protagonist is in constant danger of sudden and terrible death

Despite the direness of the situation and the deft handling of the narrative, author Andy Weir manages to create a novel that is a delight to read. While that might seem counterintuitive for what amounts to a sci-fi thriller, Andy Weir manages to pull it off without destroying the integrity of the story. I will also say that I was kept guessing until the very end about what Mark Watney’s ultimate fate would be. No I’m not telling, either. You’ll thank me later.

What really impressed me though, was that The Martian does not do what so much of our other fiction does: Sanitize the emotional impact of the situation. So often we see our heroes do what needs to be done without any complaint or any real exploration of the regret that things have to be the way they are

Mark Watney reacts to situations like a human being would. Not a whiner, mind you, but like any person in that impossible situation might realistically react. He is brilliant and resourceful but he’s also human. He gets frustrated, he gets angry and he just behaves like a person would. He’s no sanitized role model or paragon of virtue, he’s a guy stuck in a situation that never should have happened

These things are not belabored but rather cleverly scattered throughout the story so that they build up into a complete picture. Andy Weir does not beat the reader over the head with his story, rather the presumption is that the reader is an intelligent being. (Thank you!) The genius of Andy Weir is that he takes a character who is exceptional and manages to turn him into an everyman. He draws out the humanity of his characters as deftly as he sets up the situations they find themselves in. In my opinion that takes an extraordinary talent. I found that I liked each of the characters. Not just Mark, but every one of them is so well written that the reader is left with the impression that they could be real people. Is there a higher compliment one can give a writer about their characters?

If I had one criticism it is that there is a part of the novel where a jump in time happens. It was unexpected so it took me a second or two to get back into the zone. It was not a huge, it just was a bit jarring and it in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. Also, and this didn’t bother me but it might some, The Martian cusses like his first language is Sailor. This makes sense, since he is an engineer, and if Thermodynamics taught me anything, it’s that Sailor is an engineer’s first language

The Martian is due for its cinematic on October 2, 2015 and stars Matt Damon. I eagerly await the movie. Matt Damon is brilliant casting for the part of Mark. If they can pull off that character, the movie will be amazing

If you’re looking for a book to read, The Martian would be an excellent choice. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It reminded me of how much I love to read science fiction in the first place.


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