Review of The Martian by Andy Weir (You should read this book)
The Martian by Andy Weir
Rating – 5/5 (easily)
I’m a big sci-fi fan, both in books and in movies. But you don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy The Martian. Because it’s not exactly sci-fi.
It’s set on Mars, but there are no aliens. There’s no time-travel. The Martian is space fiction, with elements of action and thriller.
Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after an accident with the spacecraft he was on board. While his teammates leave, he is left behind. The Martian follows Watney as he tries to survive, and figure out a way to get off Mars.
The Martian is told mostly through Watney’s first person narration as he records everything he does on a log. It’s broken up by some third person action back on earth and the on the ship Watney was supposed to leave Mars on. But the most gripping and entertaining parts of the story are Watney’s first person logs. Despite being alone for 18 months, Watney is funny, right up until the end of the novel. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
A few of the many classic, funny lines are:
“It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”
“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
“Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”
Probably my favourite line:
“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
If there was one thing I would call this novel out on, it would be Watney’s character. The humor is awesome, but after 18 months I thought he’d start to go a little crazy being alone for so long. It would have been interesting to see him crack up a bit–but in the end, the humor is Watney’s character and it worked.
For a novel that is mostly about Watney trying to survive (growing crops, building and mending things) the pace is fast, and it’s never boring. Who knew reading about growing potatoes could be suspenseful? But Weir pulls it off. He makes you root for Watney that the suspense never lets up. But there are some cool action set pieces. The split narrative could have made the pace awkward, but it helps build suspense as people back on earth attempt to rescue Watney.
The writing is sharp thanks to Watney’s first person witty narrative. But it’s Weir’s research–the sheer and detailed amount of it–that makes this novel. It’s crazy how believable this book is–almost like it really happened and this is a recording of the events. Weir must have spent months, maybe even years researching everything, and it shows on pretty much every page of the novel. But like Michael Crichton, Weir manages to balance the information, make it understandable–or as understandable as it can be for people who know nothing about space travel and survival.
I hear Weir is writing a more ‘sci-fi’ book next, with aliens, so it will be cool to see how he’ll write about the more fictional elements of sci-fi. If The Martian is anything to go on, Weir will become a classic sci-fi writer. Because The Martian deserves to be a classic.
Fast, funny, hugely entertaining and one of the most believable fiction books I’ve read. Don’t miss it.
Highly, highly recommended. Sits aside Half the World as the best book I’ve read this year.
Hopefully Ridley Scott will do the book justice with the movie adaption.