Book Review: The Martian, by Andy Weir

The Martian

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*Spoiler free*

Summary of The Martian

Mark Watney is a botonist who was part of the first manned-mission to Mars. Unfortunately, a storm forces the team to evacuate the planet early, leaving behind what they think is Mark’s dead body after he’s struck by a piece of debris.

When Mark wakes up, he has no way of leaving Mars, no way of contacting NASA, and only the food he and his team brought with them. His only hope is to use his skills and ingenuity to find a way to survive until the next manned mission to Mars arrives, without first starving, suffocating, or blowing himself up in the process.

Main Characters

  • Mark Watney. Despite the whole ‘abandoned’ premise, there are many other characters in this book, though Mark is clearly our hero. He is also one of the greatest fictional characters that ever lived (and somehow made even more phenomenal by taking the form of Matt Damon, thanks to the movie). He is wicked smart – and not just clever smart, he also has incredible practical and common sense to combine it with – alongside a laugh-out-loud sense of humour (a book has never made me laugh more than this one). He’s such a brilliant and pure character that you can’t help but fall in love with him; you’re right there with him, desperate for him to make it back alive.

Things I Liked

The comedy. When I see a book labelled as science fiction, I don’t expect to laugh so much. But I think that’s why this book works so well – Andy Weir has combined the serious topic of constantly almost dying with Mark’s brilliantly dark humour.

I also loved the realism, which is almost funny, given this is about a man being abandoned on another planet. But Andy Weir clearly loves space and knows his science, because everything comes across as so real and believable. I honestly could have believed this was a memoir or documentary of an event that actually happened. And I find stories are so much more enjoyable when you’re not questioning their accuracy or authenticity. (At least, they are for me!)

I was also really glad it’s not just Mark’s account the whole time – NASA, Mark’s team, and other characters back on Earth all get involved, which adds to the excitement. You get different viewpoints and insights into what’s happening, and that suspense keeps you turning the page.

There’s generally just the thrill of the entire story, too. Every time you think things might be okay, something goes wrong, and you can’t believe how Mark’s going to turn it around again. You’re right there with him, a little bit in love with him, and wanting him desperately to succeed. It’s a ride.

Final Thoughts

The Martian has become one of my absolute favourite books. I would take it to a desert island – I could read it over and over.

So honestly, I think everyone should read it. Some might be put off by the whole science-fiction/space/mars stuff, but honestly, that’s all just backdrop. The true story is Mark’s comedic narrative stream and being part of the ride of him just constantly overcoming obstacles to survive.

Plus, Andy Weir seems to know his science and engineering so incredibly well that you barely notice it’s meant to be science fiction – it all just seems so real. And getting to be a part of ‘behind the scenes’ at NASA gives it an added layer and excitement – you’re not on Mars with Mark the whole entire time.

It’s a story about hope and life and pure determination, and it’s funny as hell – it’s a reminder of everything it means to be human and what it means to be here. I recommend it to everyone.

Recommended for

Fans of life. Seriously, everyone should read The Martian. And if you’re unsure, watch the movie first – that alone will make you want to read the book.

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