Review: The Martian
When a novel is hyped beyond all reasonableness, I immediately dislike it on principle. Most of the time, this near-irrational dislike ends up justified when I finally get around to reading the story. But every now and then the hype is warranted.
Enter, THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (Amazon).
Perhaps the most hyped novel in the last year or two—apart from READY PLAYER ONE—THE MARTIAN has a very simple premise. Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, and he needs to figure out a way to survive on that wasteland for years—that’s right, years—to even have a chance to be rescued.
The hype for this novel was unreal. It has a movie adaptation with Matt Damon for crying out loud. Everyone I talk to says the novel is the best thing since sliced bread…in fact, sliced bread is at a disadvantage when compared to THE MARTIAN. I’ve even heard people comment, “This book will put us on Mars!” As a person who rolls his eyes at things over-hyped, can you see why I put off reading this book?
I finally decided to read it. Well, listen to it. Yay audiobooks!
Holy cow. Hype = Deserved.
Again, the book begins with a simple premise. A stranded astronaut on Mars. Mark Watney is a Botanist and an Engineer, tasked with using his knowledge to learn as much about Mars as he can during a month-long stay on Mars. The mission is scrubbed after a short amount of time due to a storm, and our protagonist suffers an accident, is presumed dead, and subsequently abandoned on Mars.
Then he wakes up.
What follows after is one of the most compelling Man vs. Nature stories I have ever read. Mars becomes a character unto itself, the antagonist of the tale much in the way Arrakis/Dune is in the novel DUNE (Amazon), minus the sandworms. Mark Watney has to figure out how to make enough water, food and air so he can survive until a potential rescue several years later when the next Mars mission is scheduled to arrive.
The story is told primarily through the eyes of Watney via First Person log entries. As the main character of the story, this could have easily ruined the story, but instead made it awesome. Weir writes Watney (man…say that ten times fast…) incredibly well, and is immediately likable and easy to root for. His mix of humor, harsh realism, and sciency talk is done perfectly.
Due to hype, I went into this book disliking it on principle, but found that the hype was completely warranted. Such a great science fiction book.
Interspersed with the Watney log entries are portions of the story told in 3rd Person Limited from the PoVs of various scientists back on Earth who are trying to figure out how to get Mark Watney home, and Watney’s fellow astronauts. Additionally, there are some section told in a near-omniscient 3rd Person PoV…usually meaning something horrible is about to happen. The instant these omniscient sections pop up, the reader is filled with dread about what is coming. The mix of narration styles is natural, and lends to an amazing sense of pacing.
With THE MARTIAN, Andy Weir has written one of my favorite Science Fiction novels ever. There are no aliens, no FTL, and no colonized worlds. This is near-future science fiction at its absolute best. From start to finish, I had no idea how/if Mark Watney would survive. I certainly hoped he would. Though, the Horror author in me kind of wanted him to fail dramatically. So, does he survive?
Read the novel and find out.
If someone tells you THE MARTIAN is over-hyped, they are lying. It has earned every bit of good-press it has received, and then some. It is the perfect blend of science and character development.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: There will be stretches where there is none, followed by moments of very strong language. What do you expect? The dude is STRANDED ON MARS!
- Violence: Not really
- Sex: Some very brief discussions about it. Nothing explicit.
If you aren’t reading this book, you’re doing it wrong.
Great review. I had your experience. A friend of mine started talking about this book and just wouldn’t shut up. Finally I read it and now I’m sending a copy to my dad and bugging him for not starting it.
One quibble. There is a colonized world in this book, remember, if you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it (in your face, Neil Armstrong).
I was lucky in that I was offered an early review copy when it was first picked up by a major publisher, but before the hype really began. I’m honestly not sure how I would have taken it otherwise – like yourself, the higher the hype, the less I’m generally interested – but it was a fantastic read that delivered on all levels.
I share a disdain for all things over-hyped. It looks like I’ll have to read this one after all.
I agree on the love, I read the book after hearing Adam Savage talking about it, but before the movie was lit and people went batshit and I loved it. I read the book and listened to the Audiobook on Savages advice, the guy who does the Audible reading is amazing. Beautiful book especially for hard Science Fiction. This was in my top two best lines in the book, “Message reads: ‘Houston, be advised: Rich Purnell is a steely-eyed missile man.”
So, this is a little weird so far. I JUST got to the first story beat on Earth so there’s a ton of book to go, but that’s sort of the problem. At no point did I think Mark was in any real danger, at least not until the last chapter, and since the logs are ‘written’ after events that removes even more tension. I am enjoying it, though, and the part back at NASA is really fun so far. Hoping it keep that fresher feeling for the rest of the book.