Thursday, 7 July 2016

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

2011  369 pages  Del Rey

This was boss. I can’t really think of any other way to describe my reading experience of The Martian other that it totally rocked and I loved every minute of it.

The story follows Mark Watney, an astronaut sent on a mission to Mars with five other crew mates. As you probably guessed, things go a bit wrong and during their evacuation Mark gets hit in the dust storm causing the rest of his crew to believe him dead and leave without him. Of course, he’s actually still alive and is now left on Mars with a limited supply of food, no way of getting back to Earth, and no communications to contact NASA. If it was me I’d give up hope there and then but Mark Watney is smart guy and gets to work figuring out how he’d going to survive, potentially years, on a planet that wants to kill him.

Again I feel this is book I’m a bit late to the party with, but I’m so glad finally jumped on the bandwagon and gave it a whirl because it’s one hell of a ride. I haven’t read an awful lot of science fiction but I love space and because I’m such a massive nerd the whole concept of this story – the science, the engineering, the rockets (hell, yeah) was all really fascinating. Admittedly a lot of it went over my head but Andy Weir made it all sound so cool. Plus you don’t really need to understand all the mathematical jargon to follow the story since you know how things are going from how Mark Watney sums every up as either, “Well, that’s fucked” or “Yay! It worked!”

Which brings me to my next point: Mark Watney is an awesome protagonist. He’s funny, super smart, and both equally optimistic and pessimistic to be believable for a guy in his position. The story is broken up in to different scenes which take place in various different places, the primary narrative being told by Mark as he runs us through what he’s doing with his extended time on Mars. His narration is told through a series of ‘logs’ he keeps whilst the rest of the time the story skips to the guys at NASA and what they’re up to, or the rest of Mark’s crew as they journey back to Earth. The story definitely needed these multiple narratives because having just Mark’s viewpoint would have felt claustrophobic and repetitive. Mixing it up and adding more characters stopped it from feeling isolated.

Having said that, there’s only one Mark Watney and he’s essentially the only well-developed character in the entire book. It’s his story after all I guess, plus you don’t really need too much character development where everyone else is concerned since they’re all just focused on the same thing and that’s the Get-Mark-Watney-Home campaign. They all pretty much say the same things with a load of science talk thrown in which is fine because they’re just there to fill us in, and Mark holds the entertainment side of things pretty well on his own. He’s got quite a boyish, cheeky-chappy sense of humour complete with boob references and lots of sarcasm which did make me chuckle a few times. The basic plotline is obviously a very serious one but Watney’s character added some comic relief whilst still maintaining a continuous feeling of anxiety towards the gravity of the protagonist’s current situation (no pun intended).

I’m going to end the review with a quote from the book: “Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out.” That is essentially what The Martian is. One man is stranded on a foreign planet and the rest of the world try their best to get him home, with Watney relentlessly fighting death along the way. Watney and the rest of humanity refuse to give up hope and I think that’s pretty great. We should all help each other out more often. 

Overall rating: 5 stars

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