Published by Crown on February 11th 2014
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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?
It’s Sci-Fi Month, courtesy of Rinn Reads and Over the Effing Rainbow! If you want to get involved, you can check out the details here. Today I’m reviewing The Martian, which is probably my favorite Sci-Fi read of 2015.
So imagine my surprise when I could not put down The Martian, a book basically written as a love letter to engineering and problem solving. From the first sentence I was engaged in the story. What’s the first sentence you ask?
‘I’m pretty much fucked.”
What makes The Martian work so well is the humor. Mark Watney is hilarious, and surprisingly optimistic for being stranded on Mars. Without such a likeable character to route for, this book would fall pretty flat. But the whole thing is chock-full of witticisms.
“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
“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.”
Mark is the MacGyver of Mars, rigging everything from farming potatoes to creating water from scratch. But for every scientific endeavor that goes well another goes terribly wrong. This made The Martian incredibly fast-paced. It also makes you forget just how long Mark is on the planet by himself. That actually might lead to my one minuscule criticism about The Martian. I really have to suspend my disbelief that Mark is able to stay as optimistic as he does for as long as he does.
The story is told via Mark’s logs on Mars, in addition to some third person chapters from people back on earth. The chapters not featuring Mark were less interesting, but necessary for upping the stakes. As if being stranded wasn’t tricky enough, there’s a lot of factors back home that complicate Mark’s retrieval. Turns out that bringing a scientist back home is a very political problem that will look bad on NASA if they mess up.
Overall, the humor and fast-paced problem solving is what makes this book so charming. The science is accessible and really interesting, and pretty much ensures I’m never signing up for a free trip to the red planet. Kudos to Andy Weir for making such an engaging story! I look forward to any other crazy shenanigans he can cook up!