Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is a hugely entertaining novel about an astronaut who is stranded on Mars and has to rely mostly on his own ingenuity to survive and eventually get rescued. It’s funny and hopeful and packed with technical whiz bangery that would put MacGyver to shame.

I read The Martian as part of the 12 Months of Reading Goodness challenge. May’s assignment was to read a science fiction novel. Science Fiction is not my genre at all, but it’s my husband’s favorite movie genre. In fact, every time he sits with me he turns the TV to the SyFy channel where, inevitably, Prometheus is playing. It’s like they don’t have any other movies to play. And it’s awful. It’s part of the Alien series so it has the obligatory baby alien bursting out of a woman’s abdomen, with lots of slime and screaming. No thanks.

That’s the kind of science fiction I was trying to avoid, and with The Martian I succeeded. In fact, I would categorize The Martian as “science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction.” No dark, dystopian story lines, no apocalyptic zombie-producing viruses, and no aliens – the titular Martian is a human being. OK, I know I’m over-simplifying the genre but you have to admit a lot of sci fi is pretty grim.

The story takes place in the not too distant future. NASA has figured out how to send 6-person teams to Mars for 31 days at a time. On the third such excursion, the team has to abort the mission after six days due to a huge sand storm. During the resulting chaos, they think one of their teammates, Mark Watney, is killed. They don’t have time to recover the body. By a fluke, Mark survives, but now he’s alone on Mars with no way to communicate with anyone. Luckily, as an engineer and botanist, Mark has a very particular set of skills that just might see him through.

What follows is a modern version of a castaway story. Mark figures out how to survive in very creative (and technical) ways. He figures out how to grow potatoes, how to communicate with NASA and how to make water, among many other things. We learn all this from a log he keeps, which is often funny and always positive. The only thing he complains about is that he’s stuck with disco and 70’s sitcoms for entertainment.

Unfortunately, it takes a really long time to get to Mars and Mark’s food supply may run out before anyone can rescue him. NASA and Mark’s crew scramble to figure out a solution while the whole world watches with fascination. There are setbacks along the way, but no one ever gives up.

I really liked the messages in The Martian. It’s about perseverance in the face of significant adversity. It’s about the will to live and the value of human life. It’s about what can happen when people come together to focus on a common goal. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. I also liked that all the heroes in this story wielded their scientific knowledge like finely honed weapons. Yay nerds!

Next, I’m going to watch the movie. My husband will be pleased!

Thanks for the recommendation, Deborah!

Have you read The Martian? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or maybe you read a different science fiction book this month? Tell me all about it.

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

  1. I am so glad you liked it!! There is lots of good science fiction out there. I am planning to watch the movie too. Really liked your review. My 14 year old grand daughter is reading The Martian now. I share your dislike of gore and zombies. I think that is a guy thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree – the Martian is a smart, clever, very compelling book! I read somewhere that the author couldn’t find a traditional publisher, so he self-published the first edition. Of course, after that, they all came running. And the movie with Matt Damon is terrific, too. I like the “moral” of the story: Never give up; keep working the problem. If you’re looking for another “non-traditional” science fiction book to read someday, I’d highly recommend The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s a first contact novel, with a lot of attention to culture and religion, in addition to science and politics. It’s very lovely.

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  3. I loved The Martian (which I read perhaps a year or so ago) and enjoyed the book even more than the movie. This month, I read The Man Who Fell to Earth, which was one of those non-violent (mostly, except for what our people do to the poor alien) science fiction stories that really stuck home. A simple and classic story, well-written, about an alien who comes to our planet both to save his people and possibly us–but, of course, we get in his way. I don’t want to give spoilers, since I’d recommend the book–but it very much applies to how we often treat one other today. Now, I need to watch the film version with David Bowie as the alien. I imagined him throughout the book and I can totally see it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this book. I read it several years ago at the beach. Laura and I were sitting next to each other under the umbrella as I remarked to her that I would love to see it made into a movie. She looked at me like I’d been living in a cave and said, “It’s coming out this fall. Matt Damon’s in it.” And the movie is good too. Damon was perfect in the role. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I too read The Martian and thought it was okay. Not enough gore and zombies. It really could have used a baby alien or two.

    Okay, as the first guy to post on this book I had to add that. Truthfully, I enjoyed the book but I guess not as much as everyone else who posted. What I struggled most with was the super detailed descriptions of the various scientific and technical creations/methods that he came up with to solve his situation. While somewhat interesting, the details seemed to go and on. Either I wasn’t smart enough to understand most of it or I unknowingly have been relocated out of Nerdville. Enough already! Bring on the aliens! Is no one going to get splatted here or what?
    Also, for a large portion of the book, the log entries seemed to be daily or multi-daily with more detail than I could ever imagine, Blah, blah, blah. And then pow – we jump forward a year or so. That transition was a struggle for me but I will be honest, I don’t know a good way around that without the book being 12,000 pages and I already thought it was too long.
    Another detractor for me was the joyful bliss shared by all on the recovery spacecraft. Really? All that time together in a confined space (see what I did there?) and it’s all still rainbows and unicorns? Naw, I don’t think so. Heck, I drive my wife crazy daily and we share over 2,000 sq ft.
    Finally, I sure didn’t care for the ending. I won’t discuss it so as not to spoil it but I will say that while I found the book original, the ending was not.
    What did I like about the book? The humor of the main character was entertaining. I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times and what he said. Also, it was a great adventure story and I found the extreme solitude fascinating.
    In the end, I’m glad that I read it but think it would make a better movie. I just hope there is gore and aliens….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it did get really technical but I sensed the author got a really big kick out of writing those parts, so I was willing to indulge him. And you’re right about the harmony of the crew being unrealistic, but I think that might have detracted from the star of the show (Matt Damon :)). Maybe Paul can recommend something with baby alien zombies to you!

      Like

  6. I saw the movie, loved it!! But I also loved Aliens, what can I say! (Happy 40th to the original!).
    I’ll put it on my list, as books go into so much more detail, which I enjoy. Thanks for the review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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