Posted on September 18, 2017 in Reviews / 3 Comments

The Martian – #BookReview

The Martian by Andy Weir

Paperback

Published by Crown on February 11th 2014
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction
Length: 369 pages Source: Twitter Books for Trade

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Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


I LOVED this book.

Even though I saw the movie before reading the book, I feel like I have a lot to wrap my head around.

Science fiction is not my favorite of all favorite genres because it gets really technical.  I love the ideas, but when you get too explainy with the science, my brain turns to mush.  This is possibly the most explanation-heavy science fiction book ever.  I’m serious.  There is SO much time spend talking about chemistry and engineering and botany and hypotheticals and jet propulsion and… so much science.  At least 75% of the book is explanations.

BUT.

The other 25% of the book is the wonderfulness that is Mark Watney.

Without Mark Watney, this book would be nothing.

It is his snark and optimistic pessimism that keeps this story from being an interaction manual for survival on Mars (under the luckiest of circumstances).  The challenge Andy Weir faced in writing this book is making a character so likable that not only is the reader rooting for his survival, but the reader doesn’t second guess when other decide to devote so much risk, time, and money to his rescue.  Mark is absolutely that character.

Mark isn’t all science.  He is smart and well-studied – that’s abundantly clear.  He also is real.  You find him contemplating Aquaman and declaring himself a pirate.  He gets such glee when he learns from his alma mater that he has technically colonized the planet, so he’s the original Martian.  I won’t say much more here about his quips, because they take you by surprise and make you laugh out loud.  I don’t want to spoil them for anyone, but rest assured, he’s a great character.

His odds of survival were astronomical.

I think that the author/character acknowledges this fairly well with the opening line of the book.  I mean, when you open a novel and the first sentence is “I’m fucked.” you know that something really terrible has gone down and we’re in a bad situation.  Before nearly every experiment, Mark talks about how he’s probably going to die, but what the hell?  Literally every single odd would have to be in his favor for him to get off Mars, and there’s a lot of criticism in the reviews about it.  Okay, I agree.  The chances of these things happening in real life are basically zero.

You know what else?  This is fiction.

I for one would have been miffed if Mark died to make this “more realistic” for a small slice of the populace.

10/10 read this book.

When it was published, The Martian got a lot of hype and you may recall the movie starring Matt Damon from 2015?  The movie does a fantastic job representing the book with a few minor changes to move things along or make it a wee bit more exciting.  But this book has so many more laugh out loud moments.  Don’t get me wrong – Damon was perfection.  But read the book as well or you’re missing out.  The scientific jargon is easy enough to power through and it’s told mostly in Mark’s voice, so it’s easy to read and interwoven with predictions of his own death and random sarcastic comments that will make you chuckle.

Read the book.  See the film.  They’re both worth your time.

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The Breakdown
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Setting
Cover
Personal Enjoyment
Overall:

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2015 The Martian Trailer

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First & Last Sentences

“I’m pretty much fucked.”

Well that’s a heck of a way to start off the book.  Also pardon the language, but that’s what it says in the book!  With an opening sentence like that, you know that something REALLY BAD just happened.  100% hooked, more please.

“This is the happiest day of my life.”

Complete turnaround!  This is a really good example of character growth in a book, shown only in two sentences.  Just the distance between the first and last sentences shows us that there has to be a pretty extreme turn of events to get from Point A to Point B and you’ve got to be curious about that.  Overall, well done bringing us in and leaving us with a seemingly happy ending.

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Theme Song for the Book

Okay so I cheated a bit. This song was in the film, and I didn’t even use the real music video here. This is a fan-made video, and it’s lovely.  SERIOUSLY THOUGH.  “Starman” by David Bowie is perfect for this book and I had it in my head the entire time I read it.  10/10 music production team, good call on the music.  BESIDES THE FACT IT’S FROM THE 70S. … If you read the book, you’ll get it.

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Favorite Quote

This quote is not in the movie and it made me laugh out loud.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61

“How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

I mean, of all the things to be thinking at a time like that, Mark’s going with Aquaman?!  I mean, the superhero cut is one thing, but seriously, Aquaman.  Dude.  But this quote, besides being HILARIOUS, is a great example of the tone of the book.

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Books I’d Recommend

Like I said at the beginning, I don’t love science fiction because of its tendency to get really technical, BUT if you’re looking for some stellar characters in science fiction books, I think that Ready Player One would be a good fit for those who enjoyed The Martian.  Not to mention you get all that 80s nostalgia instead of the 70s nostalgia.  Additionally, don’t forget that Andy Weir’s new book Artemis is due out soon!  It promises to have more fiction and less science.  PERSONALLY I’m really looking forward to it.

   

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About Andy Weir

ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martianis his first novel.

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