The Martian (BOOK REVIEW)

Andy Weir’s The Martian is easily the quickest book I’ve burned through in years. It took me less than 2 days, a staggering achievement when considering I was listening to the audiobook. Alright, it’s not that staggering. It was only just over 10 hours long, and my usual Audible book ranges between 15 and 30 hours in length… Still, I devoured the book. I was glued to it for hours on end with it’s jaw-dropping intensity. You see, not only is The Martian a great book. It’s a great science fiction novel. And guess what. It puts the ‘science’ back into science fiction – so much so that I often forgot it was a sci-fi novel. It felt like something that had truly occurred, and that was so cool.

The novel follows Mark Watney, a stranded astronaut on Mars. A near-fatal ravaging from a sandstorm on the red planet gave NASA and Watney’s crew the ‘OK’ to abort the mission, both parties presuming Watney to be dead. And now he’s entirely alone, with no way to communicate to earth, and with only enough sustainable food, vitamins, and water to get him through about 200 sols (Mars days). The next manned mission to Mars isn’t scheduled to land for another couple years. So it’s either he gets working on a way to create sustenance immediately, or he’ll truly become the first man to die on Mars.

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, especially for all it’s accolades, such as winning the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for a Science Fiction novel. It wasn’t until the trailer for the upcoming film, starring Matt Damon, that I decided to give it a listen. And from what I see in the trailer, it’ll do the novel real justice. The only aspect of the novel the trailer didn’t seem to fully capture was the humor – of which there is plenty.

Mark Watney is charismatic. He’s witty. He’s hilarious. But he’s also so very smart. The novel’s enjoyment hinges on the fact that he can literally crack a quip about anything. Had the novel chosen a more serious character, it probably would’ve felt a lot like the film Gravity, and I’m glad it diverged heavily from that direction. Although there are other characters and POVs outside of Watney’s, it’s his that the novel revolves around and spends the majority of its time on – and being that he is literally the only person on the planet, it would have gotten really boring really quick if it were anyone else.

One of the best things about the novel was the fact that 95% of his scenes were log entries he typed up on his downtime. This may seem odd in theory, but his witty character bleeds into each log making it enjoyable, and by the end of each log entry you’re left needing to know more as he is generally off doing something potentially life threatening directly after he enters it. 

Another thing the book got totally right? It’s science. It’s math. Two subjects I was truly atrocious at during my schooling. How bad, you may ask? Well, I was in Algebra 1 for four years, if that’s any indication. But I did graduate in the 99th percentile in English, so that’s something. Anyway, that’s why I’ll never be a rocket scientist. Luckily, our Martian is. And a damn good one. Author Andy Weir accounted for just about any contingency with his science. And although I may not be the best to judge ‘good science,’ this novel is leagues ahead in the realism department than any other book I’ve read in recent memory; probably ever.

The science does begin to get stale though. In the beginning of the book it was a breath of fresh oxygen for the genre. But the technobabble doesn’t abate. This drags the book down some, especially if you simply have no clue what they’re talking about (like me).

Anything that could happen to our poor, lonely astronaut, does happen. Often it truly seems like a hopeless struggle. But as a botanist and an engineer, he finds a way, just about every time. Even then, terrible things do happen to Mark. To have the mental stamina, the knowledge necessary to fix the issues, and the sheer will to survive? It seems it was a good thing he was the one stranded on Mars and not one of his other crewmates.

Great novel. Cannot wait for that film.

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Hardcover | Paperback | eBook | Audible

16 thoughts on “The Martian (BOOK REVIEW)

  1. Strangely enough, I just listened to the audiobook as well (I also reviewed it, but don’t take that as spam). I really enjoyed it for all of the reasons you listed. Mark’s personality was excellent, and it is certainly what drove the book for me. However, I do agree with the common criticisms. While it is certainly true that he needed to fix them for the book to progress, I felt it happened too frequently and the conflicts seemed simple to resolve. Rather than focusing on adding more conflict constantly, I would have liked to learn more about Mark. What drove him to be a scientist? What are his parents like? Did he leave anyone behind when he went to Mars? The book touches on this with one of the minor characters, but not Mark himself (at least not as far as I remember). Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Overall I really enjoyed the book though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, that’s a great point. We got a lot from his personality, but not what drives him. Not what makes him who he is. I didn’t even think about that. Nice.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I too started ripping through the book fairly recently and agree with your thoughts 100% (except that the book actually predates “Gravity” so it’s not really a reaction to Sandra Bullock’s leaden emoting). I, too, am not so good on the math and sciences… I *assume* Weir got it right. The science and on-the-spot calculus certainly sounded plausible and authentic-ish, to this untrained ear. Also, his pop culture references were pretty accurate. I still picture Watney as being about 20 years younger than Matt Damon, but the book still works if read with Damon’s “voice”.

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  3. I read this book when I found out Ridley Scott was doing the movie and I absolutely loved it. Matt Damon seems a perfect casting for Watney. This movie has the potential to be amazing.

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  4. I just downloaded the audiobook yesterday. Loving it so far. One thing I’m finding is that while there is a lot of technobabble, it’s still fairly understandable – Stephen Baxter, for example, sometimes gets bogged down in technobabble in his similar books.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was considering reading this… but then I read a lot of reviews where it was like this book was just a whole bunch of “oh it broke, I’m gonna die, nevermind I fixed it” over and over… of course maybe it’s more for people who like the more technical aspects of such… I mean I do like scifi that uses real science and theories and such… but I really think this may a bit more than what I’d prefer…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that is a common criticism. However, had he not been able to fix most or all of these issues that arise, the book would be very short. It’s about survival, on a planet where literally every literally every breath is precious. I can’t really hold that against the book.

      Liked by 3 people

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