Published by Crown Publishing on February 11, 2014
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Survival
Six 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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?
I was beyond excited when a won a giveaway for a copy of The Martian by Andy Weir. This science fiction novel has quickly been gaining recognition and gathering hype in the book community. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will soon. A movie starring Matt Damon is set to be released in November of this year. I knew I had to read this as soon as possible to avoid spoilers, and to be prepared for the film adaptation’s release.
First of all, how awesome is the premise of this book? Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. Everyone thinks he’s dead, he has no contact with Earth, and he has to figure out if there is any way possible to survive on the red planet. I was instantly sucked into this survival story, and truly amazed at Watney’s ability to stay calm under dire circumstances. Plus, the guy is extremely hilarious and a lovable character. I was rooting for him from page one. Suffice it to say The Martian is an inventive and captivating story.
The writing style, however, was a bit too inventive for me. Much of the book is written by Watney in log entries detailing his days and his plans. The book starts out this way, and suddenly after fifty pages, the reader is provided with a third person narrative overlooking NASA and how they discover Watney is still alive. This jump was a bit surprising, but quite manageable. Then, things get even more unique – there are random passages that don’t fit with either point-of-view. They are thrown in sporadically, and as a reader it was jarring to the cadence of the book. At times, I had to reread passages to even understand their purpose. While I can see how this experimental writing could work for some readers, I was not a fan of the passages that didn’t fit within the book’s writing pattern.
In the same way, the pacing of The Martian was a bit off for me as well. At first, readers follow Watney at a steady pace. Then, all of a sudden, the story has skipped forward 150 Sols (Martian days). It was almost as if a huge chunk of the story was edited out so the publisher could shorten the book. The author does explain this time jump through Watney’s log entries, but it took a bit of credibility away from the story for me – are we supposed to believe that Watney just doesn’t log anything for half a year when he wrote regularly before?
My last critique is difficult for me to even believe – I got bored. Yeah, Watney was stranded on Mars figuring out how to live and I got bored! Somewhere around the 250 page mark I was wishing the story would pick up again. I’m not sure how this happened, but for some reason the action died down in the middle. Luckily, the ending started picking up, and I raced through the last hundred pages.
Putting those gripes aside, The Martian really is a remarkable novel. It sparks a great discussion on how far humans will go to remain alive even when things look hopeless, and how the cost of one human life is truly priceless. I loved the sappy moments throughout the story to show Watney’s emotional struggle that he often tries to hide in his log entries. I also thought the ending was perfect, but you’ll have to read it to see if you agree.
In the end, I do highly recommend The Martian. Don’t be afraid to pick this up if you’re not a science fiction fan. I know absolutely nothing about science and found the story easy to follow even with all the technical jargon involved. In fact, I felt as if I was learning a lot while reading an entertaining book – that’s a win-win right there. I look forward to more work by Weir in the future (another Watney novel would be great!).