On a cold, dead, planet; Mark Watney waits. He waits for rescue, or he waits for starvation. Andy Weir has crafted a thrilling, gritty, and surprisingOn a cold, dead, planet; Mark Watney waits. He waits for rescue, or he waits for starvation. Andy Weir has crafted a thrilling, gritty, and surprisingly funny novel about one man’s desperate fight to survive on a planet 140 million miles away from Earth.
The Martian is the story of Mark Watney, and how he became stranded on Mars with no means of communication and only some limited supplies. In the near future, we have started to send manned missions to Mars. Watney was on the Ares 3 mission. He was one of the lucky few who were selected to fly on one of the first missions to Mars. Along with five other crewmates, Watney was sent to study the Martian planet. An unforeseen dust storm cut a 31 day mission into a 6 day mission. Five crew members evacuated, leaving behind the body of their sixth member. The crew was devastated, believing that he was skewered by a giant antenna. Little did they know, Mark Watney was still alive.
Disoriented and panicked, Watney tries to gather his bearings and develop a plan for survival. He has no communication, and only enough food to last 400 days. The next manned mission doesn’t arrive until four years from then. His food will be long gone, and all they’ll find is a corpse in a space suit that says “Watney” on the name patch. He has to gather all his resources, and utilize his botany and engineering skills to survive.
The Martian: A Novel came into being in an unusual way. The Martian started as a serialized story on Andy Weir’s blog. After the book developed a cult following, he made it available on Amazon’s Kindle service. It quickly rose to the New York Times bestseller list, and proved that people are still craving science fiction.
Andy Weir, a computer programmer by trade, had always loved science fiction and wanted to try his hand at fiction writing. His father and mother, who were both a particle physicist and electrical engineer, respectively, instilled in him a passion for science. This passion would manifest itself in interesting ways. In his spare time, he would think up fictional space missions. Being the space geek that he was, he thought out every detail, every scenario. What if they ran out of food? What if somebody was left behind? It was then that he realized that he had a story on his hands. What started as an ember of an idea, turned into a mad drive to plan and research every possible worst case scenario an astronaut would face if stranded on Mars.
Andy Weir’s writing is so accurate and detailed when it comes to science of space travel. This is one of the book’s major strengths. In a world of hand wavy, science fiction mumbo jumbo, The Martian stands on it own for it’s gritty, realistic take on science fiction. Andy Weir set out to make his novel as accurate as possible, only using tech that is already available or within a few years of refinement.
One of The Martian’s biggest strengths is its main character, Mark Watney. Mark Watney is an incredibly smart, capable astronaut who can Macgyver his way out of any situation. The story is presented from Watney’s perspective through daily journal entries. The present status of the ship, supplies, and mishaps are recorded for our viewing pleasure, but it also gives Watney the opportunity to display his sharp, sarcastic sense of humour, and his fondness of profanity. I lost track of the amount of times a cracked a smile or busted out laughing by the way Watney comments on a situation. Watney is pretty good, but he isn’t infallible. When he fixes one problem, he causes another.
I would say that Watney personality is one of the book’s strengths, but sometimes his nerdy-but-cool guy act doesn’t fit the situation. Even when he’s facing almost certain death, he’ll still spit out witty one liners. He shows no psychological wear and tear, even after months of isolation. It’s not a major deal, just know that this book isn’t a introspective look into the human psyche. Watney doesn’t show much character development, but he’s still head and shoulders above any of the supporting cast. Most are one dimensional, but they still come off as likeable. This story is really about Watney and how he manages to get out of each scrape. The supporting cast serve their purpose well enough.
Andy Weir has managed to make detailed scientific solutions and tech, compelling. A huge draw of the book is how it takes you step by step through each problem, and seeing how an astronaut would realistically solve them. While I thought it was fun to see every step worked out, it’s not something I want to see pop up in every science fiction novel. Towards the end of the book, I had my fill of tech jargon. My eyes would start to glaze over, and I ended up just trying to read through it quickly. That being said, I don’t think it was overused, but your mileage may vary.
The writing itself is good. While Weir is a part-time writer, full-time computer programmer, he did an admirable job. The story moves at a quick pace, and makes this 300+ page book a breeze. The story is being told by Watney, who is more of a get-to-the-point kind of guy. The book doesn’t spend a lot of time painting a scene or building suspense. It’s a non-stop, plot machine. Just when you think everything is fine… nope; all hope is lost… or at least until Watney tries to jimmy rig whatever is left over from the supplies he has lying around. The plot always had me guessing what was going to happen next. Unless you have a deep understanding of science, you’re not going to foresee the problems or solutions that Watney invents. It makes for a truly exciting novel.
The Martian is a good book. It has some minor flaws, but on the whole, it is a funny, thrilling, realistic space adventure. I think it can be argued that it has a place among other popular, realistic science-fiction such as Gravity, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s important to have science fiction set in the near future. It’s stories like these that show the ingenuity, and nobility of astronauts. It’s stories like these that inspire the next generation of great men and women. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction or is looking for a good place to start....more