Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth.

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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 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?

4.5 Stars

Picture this – you survive a brush with death only to realize that you are stranded on what basically amounts to a desolate, barren wasteland. That might not seem too perilous except for one thing; this is spaceSurviving on another planet? Not so easy.

Despite the rusting desert landscape, it’s cold. I’m talking sub zero temperatures. And that’s not your only concern; the atmosphere is thin, basically a vacuum composed of approximately 95% carbon dioxide. Lethal. Survival relies solely on life support and its production of breathable oxygen. The catch? The canvas Habitat and its supporting technology is built to last for the Aries program – not indefinitely. That and you only have enough rations to last three hundred Sols.

So to recap; the only shelter you have is canvas. There is no natural source of sustenance. You have no way of communicating with Earth. NASA believes you to be long dead. You are completely alone. And, it will be four years before the next Aries mission lands.

Chance of survival? Slim. 

That won’t stop botanist extraordinaire Mark Watney!

Look, we’ve all read the classic survival story before. Protagonist find himself stranded on a remote island and must fight tooth and nail to survive against impossible odds. But, you’ve never read a survival story quiet like The Martian.

I mean – this is freaking Mars! Enough said.

The Martian is a gripping space epic, brimming with edge-of-your-seat suspense and a wisecracking protagonist that examines the spirit of humanity while saluting the conquests of space exploration. While The Martian is hard core sci-fi, there are no green men to be found on Andy Weir’s Mars. Instead you have a story that presents an extensively researched look at surviving on the red planet, painting a realistic picture of what future missions might look like. But whether or not serious sci-fi is your thing, these strong willed, fiercely optimistic characters make The Martian required reading.

I desperately wanted The Martian to be a solid five star read. This might seem like a no brainier but The Martian is very science-y. Mark Watney’s quest to survive forces him to problem solve using his skills as both a botanist and engineer. The journal-like narrative is littered with scientific jargon and some serious information dumping. After all, Andy Weir is a self-confessed science nerd, and his baby is a celebration of physics, chemistry and biology. Watney breaks this all down for us amateurs, playing the role of educator but some of his perspective went right over my head. For the most part, it was interesting but occasionally my eyes would glaze over and I did kind of skim the more dense terminology.

That being said, Andy Weir does pick up half a star for his witty and sometimes, down right hysterical comedic timing. The Martian certainly has the potential to be a very tense, very bleak story. I mean, at the end of the day, Mark is fighting for his life and his chances don’t look great. But, his determination and wisecracking attitude work to lighten the overall tone, keeping an optimistic thread. The humor is dorky, the puns are dad-worthy and I loved every geeky jab at NASA. I mean, I think we all aspire to Mark’s level of wit. That’s not to say that it’ all sunshine and rainbows. At certain beats, the plot is very emotional but there is this sense of ever present hope.

All this goes hand in hand with Mark’s character. Let it be known that Mark Watney is one of the strongest characters you will ever have the pleasure of reading about. He may be a complete and utter smart-ass but his tenacity is infectious and he has the rare ability to keep a level head in the face of adversity. Then there is the fact that Mark Watney is a bona fide nerd. Having an everyday underdog protagonist is refreshing and inspiring. If Mark Watney can survive on Mars then you can do anything. 

But, Mark’s isn’t the only perspective present in The Martian.

On the ground we have an incredibly diverse cast of characters working their damn butts off to get their astronaut home. I have to admit, I may have been slightly more invested in their narratives. While these characters might be minor, each is exceptionally well rounded and distinctive. And don’t think for a moment that the geeky humor is reserved exclusively for Watney! I especially loved the LoTR nod to the council of Elrond.

Then we have the Hermes crew. Traveling across the solar system in an ion engine powered space ship, are Watney’s fellow Aries astronauts. These characters have the shortest page time and yet this was, by far, my favorite plot thread. This is a squad I desperately need membership for. These characters are a unit led by Commander Lewis who is an actual boss. Talk about some serious BD energy and female empowerment! The whole family dynamic is heart-warming and don’t even get me started on the banter!

What I loved most about The Martian as a whole is how all the point of view chapters and sub plots work together to create this encompassing sense of connection. Not only are we privy to an amazing cast of characters but we witness the world come together to save one man’s life. NASA and JPL pull overtime, running themselves into the ground, cutting every corner imaginable to develop solutions. The general public is watching Mark’s every move, backing him even if he can’t see their support. The US and Chinese governments come together to fund NASA’s desperate ventures. The Hermes squad sacrifice too, doing what little they can to save their comrade. The Martian reminds us of the power of humanity, illuminating hope for our own sometimes dark reality.

Bottom line, if after this tediously long-ass review you aren’t convinced to pick up Andy Weir’s inspired romp through space than I am not a very good writer. Essentially, The Martian is a breathtaking look at the human spirit, highlighting what we can achieve when we put down our weapons, our prejudice and collaborate. It’s emotional, it’s suspenseful, it’s humorous – The Martian is a modern classic that acknowledges just how far we have advanced. I cannot recommend this book enough.Alexandra

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7 thoughts on “Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

  1. Omg I remember reading this years ago after watching the movie & loving it! I was doing my pharmacy degree at the time so the chemistry nerd in me LOVED it 😂 And honestly Mark was incredible – I know if I was stranded on Mars I’d be like “Well, I guess this is it,” but he took everything in stride & never ONCE screamed about the unfairness of it all!!

    💛 Ngoc

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s definitely what made The Martian so inspiring – had I been left on Mars I’d be dead (probably of my own stupidity) within the first ten minuets! His wit and his ability to remain positive and hopeful is the level I aspire too. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed the movie adaptation – and even tried to pick up the book after enjoying it so much. But as you mentioned, this book is littered with science fiction jargon and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy that aspect. Such a great review Alex!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The movie is one of my all time favorites – it’s the perfect friday night blockbuster! Dare I say, I think the movie might even be better than the book? The science fiction jargon does take a lot to get used to and it definitely slows down the book. Thank you for reading! ❤

      Like

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