So I read this little book called The Martian. IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS. I’m pretty sure my review on Goodreads just says “I can’t even with this book.” I just can’t guys. After a string of so-so reads, this one blew me away.
Andy Weir’s The Martian was recommended to me a few times so I picked it up, not really knowing anything about what it was about or the type of book. I mean, I figured it was sci-fi because, duh, Mars, but I didn’t know if it was an alien-comes-to-earth kind of sci-fi (something I would only maybe be into?) or if it was a mystery or anything. Well sure it’s sci-fi, but definitely not veering into the fantasy world. It is a heart attack in a book from page one and the action continues until the very last sentence.
The book begins with a failed NASA expedition to Mars due to an abnormal wind storm. Botanist/mechanical engineer/astronaut Mark Watney is hit by debris and his suit is damaged, leading the rest of the crew to believe he is dead and leaving him on Mars. But, uh, he’s not dead. What follows is an epic tale of survival told through Watney’s daily logs and the efforts of NASA to rescue him. And I don’t mean “epic” as in “bro that story was totally epic,” I mean like the guy goes through every possible disaster completely alone (for most of the novel he has absolutely no way to communicate to Earth thanks to the aforementioned wind storm) in an unknown and terribly inhospitable environment. Every single sol (Mars day) brings new chances to starve, blow up, run out of oxygen or water, freeze, and suffer through 70s TV shows. Page after page brings threat after threat and the pacing of the novel leaves you breathless and exhilarated. Because Watney is a botanist and mechanical engineer, he is able to do seriously impossible things. I wish everyone were as smart and ingenious as he is. The world would be a much better place.
And did I mention he is maybe the funniest fictional character I’ve ever met? Because he is a riot. In between biting my nails in anxiety I was laughing out loud. The husband thought I was insane. But that may have been because every five minutes I was telling him he HAD to read this book after I finished. Oops. I get a little excited sometimes.
Anyway, because I am not an astronaut or mechanical engineer, a lot of the lingo was new to me and I won’t lie, I haven’t taken a math or science class since high school, so a lot of Watney’s “work” on Mars went over my head. However, I never felt like I had to suspend my disbelief. I totally believed that he was able to grow potatoes in the Hab and outfit the rover to carry him across the surface of Mars to repair an old communication system and create the millions of things he had to just to live. Weir is a self-proclaimed “lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight” and it’s obvious he did tons of hours of research. Truth is, I don’t even care if all of Watney’s MacGyver-ing wouldn’t really work; I was picking up what he was selling. I also know that I am certainly not scrappy enough to survive on Mars. So sad.
While most of the story is told first-person by Watney, and he is obviously the central character to the drama, the cast of characters on the ground in NASA were also well-drawn, smart, and funny. If you do read The Martian, and I SERIOUSLY hope you do, please do yourself a favor and DO NOT look up the cast of the movie that is coming out on Thanksgiving. (Side note: Sorry family, dinner’s going to have to be late this year, I’m going to be busy…) Most of the casting is absolute perfection, but of course the pictures in your head will be better unbiased.
The non-stop action eventually does give way to a story full of heart. Without a doubt, it’s a story about the persistence of mankind to survive. It wouldn’t be very exciting if Watney just gave up and OD’ed on morphine on Sol 6. But it’s also about the incredible generosity and goodness of mankind, the people who devote sleepless days and weeks and months for rescuing one stranger. I know it’s a bold statement for February, but The Martian might end up being the best book I’ve read and will read in 2015. That’s how freaking much I loved this brilliant and funny story of the first guy to colonize Mars.
Rating: 10, One of the best books ever! (Thoroughly captivating and re-readable. Complex and without flaw.)