The Martian by Andy Weir started life as a self-published book, experiencing a lot of success, before being picked up by Random House. It is a "hard SF" story about a man being left behind on Mars, and while there is math and equations dotted throughout the book, it never gets in the way of what is one of the most thrilling sci-fi stories I have ever read.
The story follows Mark Watney, biologist and mechanical engineer, astronaut on one of the first manned missions to Mars. When their Martian shelter is attacked by a huge storm, the crew is left with no choice but abort the mission and evacuate to space. During the evacuation, Watney is struck by flying debris and disappears into the storm with a torn suit, his personal transponder is transmitting that there are no signs of life, and the crew have no choice but to leave him for dead so that they can survive. Through sheer luck, Watney has somehow survived this ordeal, but it is just the first of many ordeals as Watney is confronted with the challenge of staying alive on Mars until the next mission arrives over a year later, with only a few months worth of supplies left over.
For me, The Martian was a thrilling story about perseverance, strength, endurance and ingenuity in the face of extreme adversity, with Weir making this stressful journey a little more fun by making Watney an insufferable smartass. No matter how dire the situation, Watney is always the first to make a joke to NASA over a public broadcast about drawing boobs in the Martian soil. Watney is scared, terrified, but humour is his defence mechanism, and I found myself laughing out loud at the most inappropriate stuff. Watney is highly skilled, more skilled than most people I know, and that is something that I am totally on board with having read Col. Chris Hadfield's autobiography on his time as commander of the ISS. Watney is like Martian MacGyver, surviving on Mars by jury-rigging the various appliances he has up there to create lasting supplies of food, water, oxygen, and just about anything else he might need. Richard Dean Anderson would be proud.
The story may be hard SF, but Weir writes them in a very accessible way, allowing the thriller elements to come through loud and clear. Weir not only has a knack of being able to explain some very complex stuff in Layman's terms, but he also has a knack of presenting everything in a way that makes sure it all means something to the reader. You understand why oxygen levels are important, you understand why temperature is important, you understand how rationing the food is going to impact Watney's performance the longer he deprives himself of a full meal. And just when you think you understand everything, Weir throws a curve ball, forcing Watney to scramble and come up with insane solutions on the fly in order to survive. This is an intense novel.
I love The Martian. I don't want to say much else because I think it is a book you really read for yourself so you can come up with your own conclusions. Whether you read sci-fi or not, this is a book that I can highly recommend.
Review by Ryan Lawler
1 positive reader review(s) for The Martian
Ann from USA
I LOVE this book. This is the most entertaining book I've read in 20 years, and that's saying something because I read a lot. This book was a pleasure from the first few pages to the very exciting end. The main character, Mark Watney, is a botanist and a mechanical engineer, which seems an unlikely pairing of degrees, but as the story progresses you realize that the only way he can survive being marooned on Mars is with that unique combination of skills. He needs to know enough science to keep everything running for another year or so, plus he needs to figure out how to grow food on Mars so he can keep eating. I could not put this book down. I have recommended it to friends and written several reviews. Hooray for Andy Weir. I can't wait for him to write and publish another book!
9.9/10 from 2 reviews