The Martian by Andy Weir strikes the perfect balance between hard science fiction and snarky humor, to give us one of the most entertaining space survival stories of the last decade.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: February 11, 2014
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 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?
Mark Watney is pretty sure he is fucked. Six days into his crew’s Mars mission, a fierce dust storm forces the crew to abort the mission and leave Watney on the surface, believing him dead after seeing him struck and impaled by debris. Watney, however, is not dead, but he is now alone on the surface of Mars. A planet famous for being very cold and very uninhabitable. Armed with bad ass botany and engineering skills, a lot of disco music and 70s TV shows, and his mostly never wavering desire to find a way back to earth, Watney fights for his life against the unforgiving nature of Mars.
With one of the greatest opening lines I’ve ever read, The Martian cements itself as one of the funniest and intense books I’ve ever read. Weir somehow manages to balance hilarity with survival and it just works for me. I am a huge fan of sci-fi books in alternative formats (storytelling through logs, emails, found footage, etc) and The Martian fits that bill. Told mostly through Watney’s Mars logs, we get a stark and snarky look at what his life is like on Mars. While the story telling changes throughout the book, it’s Watney’s parts that kept the story going and kept me laughing.
I will say that this is definitely a hard science fiction novel and it goes pretty deep into its science-y bits, but I never got bogged down in that. I am not a science minded person, but Watney’s delivery of the material helped me through. Watney is not one to let a snarky quip or silly expression pass him by. There are moments where the science drags down the pace, but the story keeps the reader engaged in Watney’s struggle to survive.
While I struggle to determine if I think people should watch the movie adaptation or read the book first, I can at least say that the audiobook is the way to go with this. I’m basing this opinion on the original version of the audiobook read by R.C. Bray. Wil Wheaton is the new narrator and he can still bring out the humor of the story easier than just reading it from the page. I may not be 100% impressed with the sample of Wheaton’s audio that I listened to on audible.com, but I know he has done good audiobook work in the past. Basically, give it a shot. With the snark and science, I feel the read is easier to enjoy through a narrator.
The Martian is definitely one of my favorite stories in the last decade. With the exception of a few pacing issues, it is a perfect novel. If you like snark, survival, and science fiction, The Martian is the book for you.