Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir
June 28, 2014 15 Comments
The Martian: What it is about
From the author: “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?”
The Martian: What I thought
When a science fiction novel doesn’t involve fighting space ships, I’m all for it! This one was about space travel, or actually: space living. When Mark is left behind on Mars after a mission goes wrong, he’s has to use his wits to survive. He knows the next space mission won’t be for several years and he plans to stay alive until he can be rescued.
Most of the book is his log about his plans (and the execution of them) on how to survive for so long. This is alternated with the story of the NASA staff back on earth who are trying to get into contact with him (indeed, even that is not possible) and try to find ways to get food to him or rescue him in some other way.
The premise is brilliant and the actions Mark undertakes to keep alive are very inventive and clever. Unfortunately, he goes into quite a lot of detail to describe what he does and I found this a little tedious at times. I mean, I didn’t need to know exactly how much hydrogen he could recover from so much water and so much oxygen (sorry, maybe it wasn’t quite that) or how much energy he needed. Calculation upon calculation. I didn’t mind it too much, but I certainly didn’t check whether he was right.
Especially in the beginning, it felt as if I was reading an accountancy report, replacing dollars for liters and forces. But the story is good, he gets a little further with his plans every day, although of course there are some fall backs. With his clever thinking he usually finds a good solution, but sometimes it’s more a matter of hope than of certainty.
A lot of things went right for him, maybe too many. Mark was so inventive that it seemed unlikely that something would go so wrong, that he wouldn’t survive (plus the story would lose its main character!). I guess just being on Mars with the smallest mistake being lethal was enough to keep the story interesting.
Mark didn’t talk much about how he felt being on his own on a planet with no hope of a swift rescue. He didn’t seem to miss anyone back on earth. He focused totally on survival. That seemed a bit unrealistic. Wouldn’t you have an off-day where you wallow in self-pity?
But having said all that, I loved the story and the somewhat unlikely ending.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)
Number of pages: 384
First published: 2014
I got this: from the publishers, Crown, for review (ebook)
Genre: science fiction (space travel)