Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian 

Synopsis: 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 forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars's surface, with no way to signal to Earth that he's alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, Mark 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. 

Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills - and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength - Mark embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Date Published: February 11, 2014
Published By: Crown
Number of Pages: 369
Rating: 4/5

With the film version of The Martian set to release this week, I'm sure a few people will be wondering, 'Do I need to read the book first?'

Um, fuck yeah, you need to read the book first. What kind of question is that anyway? 

Even though The Martian is set on Mars, at its heart, it is a traditional man-versus-nature survival story. Mark Watney has the odds stacked against him. I mean, this guy is stranded by himself on a freaking planet. There's no way he'll survive. 

I'm not going to spoil the entire book and tell you if he does or not. I will tell you that this is one of the most unputdownable books I've read in a long time. I really found myself rooting for Mark - I was ecstatic when he overcame a problem and devastated when he encountered yet another setback. Mark may not be facing an antagonist that is deliberately trying to kill him but he may as well be. But the great thing is that Mars is indifferent as to whether Mark survives or not. It adds this wonderful tension to the story - you don't know when something is going to go wrong, you just know that it will.

One of the things that makes The Martian so realistic and believable is the amount of technical detail embedded in the story. Mark, as an astronaut, has a lot of scientific know-how and he puts it to good use throughout his ordeal. So there are a lot of calculations and chemistry and science jargon peppered throughout the narrative. Did I find myself skimming over some of the more technical aspects? Yes, once or twice. The good thing about The Martian is you don't need to have a master's degree in astrophysics to understand what's going on. Even if you flunked high school chemistry, there's enough exposition (told in Mark Watney's witty POV) to help you get the gist.

I would say the most entertaining thing about The Martian is Mark Watney himself. Even when he's stranded on an inhospitable planet by himself staring death in the face, he keeps his sense of humor. And it is dark. Mark frequently jokes about potentially dying on Mars and I think this is the one thing that keeps him sane. I mean, you might as well joke about it, right? It's either that or run around in panicked circles, screaming your head off. Mark's sense of humor makes him such a relatable character that you can't help but hope that he makes it. And one of the most unsettling parts of the story is the knowledge that he might not.

The Martian is one of the best science fiction books that I've ever read. Do yourself a favor and read the book before going to see the movie. 

No comments:

Post a Comment