Review: The Martian

The Martian

The Martian
By Andy Weir
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780804139021, February 2014, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

After being left for dead, an astronaut battles failed equipment and a dwindling food supply in what appears to be a hopeless situation.

The Rest of It:

This is a novel with a super simple premise and yet, there is so much to ponder. Mark Watney is like the MacGyver of space. His area of specialty is botany and mechanical engineering, which helps with the food situation as he’s able to cultivate potatoes out of basically, very little. Getting the soil just right and taking into account the limited water and oxygen supply, it’s a challenge to say the least. As a reader, you can’t help but marvel at his resourcefulness.

His crew left him behind because of a fatal tear to his suit during a rather severe windstorm, but when he patches himself up and somehow figures out a way to communicate with NASA, his crew, residing offsite over 400 days away, learn of his existence. As you can imagine, this has all sorts of consequences to their original mission. One, leaving a crew mate behind was never what they had planned to do and the regret over the decision weighs heavily with them. Two, they quickly decide, with the help of NASA that they must go back for Watney. This forces NASA  to come up with a way to extend his lifespan and therefore increase his chances for survival.

While all of this is going on, Watney has to figure out ways to keep himself busy. Days and nights are spent watching TV shows from the past (yes, he has access to shows) or listening to the Disco music collection left behind by another crew member. He also spends hours figuring out how to turn vapor into drinkable water and well, blowing himself up. A chemist, he is not.

There is a lot of humor contained between these pages but there is also a serious amount of math. Not a problem if you can read over it and not feel the need to work stuff out in your head. But for much of the book, especially the first 60 pages or so, I found myself double-checking the numbers to see if the numbers matched up. At one point, I got on Facebook and asked other readers if the entire book was that way. Thankfully, no but you should be aware of it in case you are a math hater and cannot deal with numbers.

I love science and there is just something magical about space exploration and Watney is an interesting character. He’s vulnerable, yet tough. Positive, yet realistic. As a reader, you will find yourself totally absorbed by the rescue mission itself. Can he endure a year of waiting? Will the equipment hold up? Will there be enough food? Water? Will he freeze to death? These are the questions that you will ask yourself over and over again because with each step forward, there is one step back and it’s heartbreaking to see that forward/back thing when it happens.

It’s a good book to get lost in. I mean, you really feel as if you are out there stranded with Watney and that’s saying a lot. Last I read, Ridley Scott was in negotiations to direct Matt Damon in the movie version. I love Scott and Damon. That is a winning combination to me but how will it differ from Gravity? The isolation and the fight to survive and return home won’t be new. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Have you read The Martian? Will you see the movie?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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22 thoughts on “Review: The Martian”

  1. This was one of my favorite books this year! Kept rereading scene of him being discovered as lost…..math for some reason didnt bother me…tho i remember in the beginning wondering if the whole book was going to be that way. When i finished my first t!hought was what a great movie this would make….i think it would be different than gravity (which i loved) because this book had so much humor in it!

    1. If I had one criticism, it would be that we learned very little about Watney’s personal life. There was a mention here and there about his life back home but not much. 

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  2. You captured my attention with this “MacGyver of space”. I’m not big on math in books, but this does sound very interesting. I’d love to see a movie of this one

    1. The guy in this book is so resourceful. Big gaping hole in his suit…no problem. No water for the potatoes… I’ll make some. It’s fascinating. 

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  3. This is definitely on my list. I see this at the bookstore every time I go in to browse. (I’d like to wait until it comes out in softback.) Although I’m not into math, space travel in fiction can make for an interesting beast, a unique plot… very interested in giving this one a go.

    1. It’s probably a challenge to write a book with primarily one leading character. There are others at NASA that play a role of course, but as a reader, you spend much of your time stranded with Watney. So, it’s a good thing I liked him. 

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  4. I’m not a math person, and had absolutely no urge to proof any of his numbers! LOL! And I certainly didn’t understand the technical aspect, but it was written in such a way that you could get the gist, and sort of be in awe of the author’s cred. Beyond that it was an awesome read. Very funny, very heartfelt, and pretty much seat of your pants. For audio lovers out there, it was excellent!

    1. I can see it being good on audio with the right reader. What do you think about the movie though? Matt Damon and Ridley Scott. Good combo but they’d have to add something to make it different from Gravity. 

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  5. I haven’t decided if I want to read this one yet. I’m not a math person, although I’m not above skimming when it comes to something like that. Still, the general story line doesn’t grab me. Maybe someday . . .

    Reading your review, I couldn’t help but think of Gravity.

  6. I read only half of this book and need to get it from the library again. I loved all that math and chemistry and botany in this book. So much fun to read and ponder about!

  7. I LOVED this book and want to experience it again via audiobook in a few weeks. I would totally see this in a theater. I think Matt Damon could pull off the humor as well as the science. I can’t wait!!

    1. With Damon on board, I think it will be good. He has that great mix of funny and sarcastic which is how I envisioned Watney to be while reading. 

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