Book Review: The Martian (Andy Weir)

The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

© 2011, 2014

Publisher: Broadway Books (Penguin Random House Company)

Reviewer: Sara

Rating: 5 (very enthusiastic) Running Moms!

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Review (Caution: Expletive ahead):

Mark Watney is a botanist, astronaut, and was one of the first to walk on Mars. He may be the first to die there. The crew was forced to initiate an emergency evacuation after a dust storm threatened the mission. In transit to their Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), Watney was struck by flying equipment, his suit punctured and vital signs flat-lined. Following the realization that he’s alive initiates the largest international rescue attempt ever mounted. All the while, Watney struggles against the odds to survive on an inhospitable planet, in the hopes that help will reach him before his luck, or food, runs out.

The Martian begins with a brilliant hook. Mr. Weir’s crafted the opening in a deliberate and precise manner, and it has exactly the desired intention.

I am reading, no, devouring, this book. Mark Watney, you had me at “I’m pretty much fucked.”

From start to finish, there’s very little to dislike, and so much to love. Characters are well-developed, flawed, funny and believable. The reader experiences Mark Watney’s frustrations and triumphs from his log entries, the accounts of those back on Earth aiming to bring him home and his crew, who will risk their lives to save his. The action and events, both on Mars, in space and on Earth are well-paced, exciting and vivid, driving the plot without overwhelming it.

There were a couple of points towards the end that I think took away from the overall book, but not so much that it effected how much I enjoyed it. At some point, the guy has got to catch a break, right? Nope. Bad shit happens all the way up to the end, past the point where it seemed reasonable. There was one last ‘episode’ of bad luck on the heels of a major bad luck event before Watney can attempt to rejoin his crew that I wish would have been hit with the red pen. Mr. Weir also introduced an omnipotent narrator to give an overview of the initial moments in Watney’s rescue. Up until that point, the story was told through first-person narration by Watney, writing his logs, and third-person narration for the rest of the characters, following the events on Earth and in space. The new narration voice was distracting and unnecessary. Fortunately, it was also very brief.

For those who see the movie, the casting is brilliant and matches the way Mr. Weir has written these characters to a “T.” That being said, there are moments in the movie that are not in the book, and vice versa. It’s easy to see why this book is a best seller and why Mr. Weir serves as a beacon of hope for all self-published authors hoping to reach the volume of a mainstream audience. His story can be found many places, but if you really want some tips for crafting a book as well received as this one, give this article a read: Story Fix: The Martian DeconstructedStory Fix: The Martian Deconstructed.

For the busy mom, this is a “Do Not Miss” kind of book. Legitimate science meets fiction, plus action and humor, make for a brilliant combination. This is the kind of sci-fi book that makes everyone a sci-fi lover. If not for all the cursing, I’d say it’s also I great read for the kids…so maybe hang on to it until they’re older. (Or read it to them and insert alternate words…like: fruitcake.) Were there passages that went over my head? You better believe it. But I’ll be going back to read it again and when I do, will try to catch them with my super-fast reflexes1. 😉  In general, if, when I finish a book, I find myself disappointed the story is over, or wishing to go back into the world I just left, that’s a sign of an outstanding book.

Have you read it? Seen it? Which did you prefer?

Happy reading and happy trails!


Reviewers’ note: If you’re not familiar with the story behind The Martian’s success, here are a few links!

Smithsonian Magazine article: What made The Martian successful? Scientific peer review!

Business Insider article article

1If you didn’t catch that joke, please go see Guardians of the Galaxy.

Featured image:

  • Cover design: Eric White
  • Cover photograph: NASA (astronaut)

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