Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy WeirSix 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 nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he 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.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

___

Review

Every time I read a hard sci-fi, which is not often mind you, based in space I expect an alien to come out at some point. When I first came across The Martian, knowing it was definitely set in space (going by name and cover), I immediately thought space-based story with possible alien sighting. Then I looked further into the story and realised it had nothing to do with aliens.

This was the decision maker for me. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good sci-fi with aliens, but how often do you come across one where the protagonist is some poor guy who got stuck in space? I know I’ve never read a space-based sci-fi without at least one alien.

The Martian follows the story of Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars. No one can get to him any time soon, he can’t get anywhere, and there’s no radio contact available. Poor Mark. Naturally, in the back of my mind, there’s the question of whether it will be a boring read. What exactly can Watney get up to, to make a reader want to keep reading?

I surprisingly, to me at least, found the story fascinating and engaging. There’s a whole lot of things Mark Watney can do while stranded on Mars and it came across as very authentic with the amount of detail in relation to his activities. The story is in journal format, at first, and then switches between Watney’s journal, events on Earth and at NASA, events on Hermes (the mission ship), and correspondence between everyone involved.

During Watney’s journal he goes into detail about the whys and the hows, which might sound boring, but it’s infused with the character’s great sense of humour. Mark Watney is now one of my favourite protagonists. He has been added to the list. I found myself laughing, at home and in public, and I’m a hard one to get laughing. I’m not talking about those quiet little laughs you try to keep to yourself either. I’m talking about outbursts that get people to abruptly stare at you in a quizzical sense.

As much as I loved it, sometimes the detail did go over my head. There were times when it was more than my brain could comprehend and other times when I wasn’t in the mood to read it. I still read it though. I wanted to enjoy the protagonist’s humour. I thought the ending was on the preachy side, but that just may have been me. There’s a large focus on the science of the science fiction, but it’s understandable when you realise this marooned character needs to focus on something. His focus, what drives him forward and shuts out denial, affected me to the point where the ending felt jarring to me.

I’m not disappointed in the ending though. Personally I could have gone without the extra reflection, but the rest was great. The whole story was great. I found myself riveted no matter what and by the end of it, even though the situation would be horrendous, I found a small part of myself wishing it had actually taken place. It would be awesome to know a man like Mark Watney is out there after surviving temporary Martian status.

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