The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir
Published in 2014 by Crown.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: sci-fi thriller.

My rating:

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 and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, Mark 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’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive. But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

zmaj-desno

Andy Weir’s The Martian is one of those books that are completely out of my comfort zone and yet I enjoyed it immensely. I read it after my husband kept asking me to for a month (he’d read it in a couple of days, he reads a lot but he really flew through this one) and I’m really, really glad I followed his advice. I read sci-fi sometimes but it’s usually YA dystopias or something similar, and my last attempt to read “true” sci-fi was not all that successful. So you could say I was worried, going into this book, that I would hate it – it received an ungodly amount of hype, got turned into a blockbuster movie, and everyone I know has been raving about it. This is why I am doubly glad it didn’t disappoint.

You can read the synopsis for a general idea of what you’re dealing with, but I’m going to go with this: if I was Mark Watney, I would be dead the moment the Mars Ascent Vehicle (and my crew mates) left the surface of the planet. Okay, so I’m a book person, not a science person (or a trained astronaut) but I feel like you’d have to be a very specific type of person to survive being stranded on another planet. I’m not a very relaxed flier and the thought of going into outer space terrifies me. Being left alone is the most claustrophobic (or perhaps agoraphobic, if you consider all that empty space) feeling I can imagine. I have never dreamed of being an astronaut when I was a kid, preferring to center my ambitions in more Earth-bound pursuits.

Anyway, if you consider my personality, it’s even weirder that I liked this book so much. A large part of my attraction to it is due to Mark himself. He is not attractive in any kind of romantic way (at least I imagined him to be kind of scrawny and, uh, smelly) but he’s such a great character. His narration (the story is mostly told through his logs, or journals) is funny, fast-paced, and thrilling. He can be a snarky a**hole sometimes but as he says, he can do whatever he wants because he’s stranded on Mars. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where everything was so strongly focused on a single character – and I loved it.

I have to say that the sciency bits sometimes confused me. I have a very poor grasp of physics and chemistry, due to a general lack of interest and very horrible school teachers, but I was something of a math geek and my biology knowledge is not terrible (I know, it doesn’t make sense but there you have it). Nevertheless, I found myself zoning out and skimming over some of Mark’s calculations (on the amount of air or water or energy needed for his survival, for example). I mean, I bet there are some people who are genuinely interested in this but I just had to take everything Weir had written at face value because I wouldn’t know that he’d made a mistake even if it was glaringly obvious to others.

I also kept comparing Mark Watney to Robinson Crusoe. Their stories are really similar if you think about it (and I half expected some aliens to pop up as a sci-fi version of Defoe’s cannibals). Mark is such a DIY genius, he can tackle everything by himself and sometimes he just seemed too heroic and capable. Don’t get me wrong, I never rooted against him, I just wished Weir had thought of a way to put a different spin on the castaway motif.

But all in all, this was a very good foray into a new-to-me genre and I am looking forward to a) watching the movie; b) seeing what Mr. Weir cooks up next.

zmaj-levo

Have you read The Martian? Or maybe you saw the movie? What did you think?

Did you ever dream of being an astronaut? Would you travel into space if you got a chance?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Yay, glad to see you enjoyed this! Nothing weird about being drawn to Mark Watney, I love smart guys, especially those science-y types :) Most of the rocket science stuff went over my head too, but all the impenetrable jargon almost didn’t matter, since Mark’s personality pretty much carried this one through.

    • Yep, I was very pleasantly surprised when I read this – but then I shouldn’t have been because my husband really has a good taste in books (the only author we clashed on was Joe Abercrombie…). :)

      And yeah, I like smartasses as well. You can always count on good conversation – but what I liked about Watney was that I imagined that he wouldn’t be overly scientific if he was talking to a non-science-y person. MY husband is a computer programmer (and researcher), for example, and is very nice about this sort of thing, but some of his colleagues are HORRIBLE, it’s impossible to have lunch with them without zoning out when the conversation turns to the latest thing they’re working on.

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    So glad to see you enjoyed this one! It really is incredibly readable and fun! :)

    • I’m glad, too! :) I was afraid it would be too bombastic and science-y for me but Mark Watney made everything better. :)

  • I committed a bookish sin with this and actually saw the movie without having read the book *hides* In my defence, the boyfriend really wanted to see it and since he’s not much of a reader (the poor soul) I indulged him LOL! LOVED the movie though and it definitely made me want to read the book even more! I’m glad you enjoyed this so much Kaja^^ I know the technical stuff would go over my head too but I think I’ll enjoy the rest enough not to care :)

    • Yeah that happens sometimes. :D I did it with Stardust but then I read the book and loved it, too! Even more than the movie. I hope you give this one a try, I thought it would be such a GUY book but it wasn’t, I enjoyed it a lot. And now I get to watch Matt Damon! :)

  • I LOVED LOVED LOVED this one! I actually woke up in the middle of the night on the second day I was reading it, just to finish it. literarily woke up and was like: this cannot wait! XD

    I actually haven’t seen the movie. I do want to, but I’m a little unsure about how Watney in the book will compare to Wantey on screen. So much of his humor and snark I thought was due to Weir’s writing, and I’m not sure how well they can transfer that to the big screen.

    • Haha, I can see you’re really passionate about this one! :) I read it in about a week – but the last 150 or so pages I read in one evening, I couldn’t put it down. It has great momentum, I enjoyed that a lot.

      I like Matt Damon a lot so I’m hoping the movie will be good. Most of the people said it’s really great, even if they read the book first. And very different people, too – bloggers both male and female + my father as well. :) And yeah, it’s always scary too see your favourites on screen if you’re concerned about the style coming through. I hope you like it if you decide to give it a try! :)

  • Maraia

    Great review! I definitely agree with you—I’m just fine staying on the ground, haha. I enjoy stories set in space, but I’ve never had the urge to go there myself. There’s no way I would have survived even a day alone on Mars, either. :P A lot of the science went over my head as well, but the humor more than made up for it.

    I hope you enjoy the movie! It’s not quite as good as the book, but Matt Damon was great, and I liked it a lot.

    • Thanks. :) I would drive everywhere if I could but I know statistics for air travel are actually better than car travel (accidents-wise). But outer space is a definite no-no. I’m kinda worried my kids will want to do extreme things – not travelling into space, hopefully, but bungee jumping or extreme skiing or whatever and I’ll have to swallow my worries and let them explore. Ugh. Letting go will probably be the worst aspect of parenting. :D

      I like Matt Damon a lot so I’m trusting him to translate Watney’s personality in a good way – we’ll watch it soon, probably, and I’ll report. :)

      • Maraia

        Hahaha, I look forward to hearing your stories in the future. :P

  • I might travel to Mars once the luxury hotels are all up and running, but am not at all interested in being an astronaut. A recommendation for your husband is The Martian Conspiracy – my review is here: http://gotmybook.booklikes.com/post/1329759/review-read-martian1

    • Haha, yeah, hotels on Mars sound great. Though I would have reservations about living on a planet where the (lack of) atmosphere would kill me the instant I stepped outside without a protective suit, ugh!

      And thank you for the rec, I’ll pass it on! :)

  • I’m so glad you liked it and this is a fantastic review. It is the sci-fi book which refuses to be pigeon-holed. It seems to be a book which is universally well received no matter what genre you usually read, that demonstrates a good book right there.

    I agree, it’s strange a book which predominantly focuses on one person would be so good, but it is and that is all down to the character of Mark Watney. He is funny. He is funny, sarcastic, a bit of an arsehole and a character who stays upbeat in a very impossible situation. It’s crazy. I have a strong urge to reread this book because I enjoyed it that much.

    I agree with you about the sciencey stuff, though. I sort of skimmed over it when it got too indepth because that really slowed down my reading at first. I was sat trying to understand it, but it all went over my head. I was ace at biology at school and maths, but physics just was beyond me and I completely blame bad teaching. It doesn’t matter, though, you can get the general idea of what he’s saying and roll with it. I do want to know what people thought who actually have a decent grasp of science and see how legit the science is in the book, but that’s not essential, it would just interest me.

    • I like un-pigeon-holeable books. They’re surprising and often the best reads! And yeah, I know I talk mostly to a very bookish crowd but I have yet to hear someone say they hated this.

      I love that you write “arsehole” the British way, not “asshole” :D I think you’re one of my few English commenters and nobody else from your part of the world leaves long comments so I’m very happy you do. :)

      And yeah, Mark is funny and I really admired his ability to get up again after he’d been knocked down by that damn planet again and again. I mean, he probably realised it was going to kill him if he just sat on his ass (arse) all day. I might reread it at some point, too, now I want to watch the movie first.

      Isn’t it awful how teacher can screw up your interest in a subject? I often find myself wishing I’d paid more attention when A. starts explaining something like torque to me and I zone out in about 5 second. I just have NO IDEA what the most basic concepts in physics are and it’s really quite embarrassing for an educated person.

      But yeah, I trusted Watney enough to go with his calculations, I guess it must be super interesting to read such a book if you’re actually a physicist, or better yet, an astronaut! Do you think they’ve read it at NASA? :)

      • They really are. They are the books that know no boundaries and unite folk in their love of books.

        And the weird thing is I don’t notice my British-isms coming out. I try and write my comments as I’d say them which explains why I get rambley. And my fellow Englishman should be embarrassed they aren’t as verbose as me.

        And it’s the worst that it’s an educator ruining the enjoyment of a subject. My brother had the same teacher and liked physics so I do think it’s individual tastes. It does suck that you can’t even get the basics of a subject that you could probably enjoy.

        I would love NASA to have read this book. They better have passed it round the office to read. Book club book.

        • We watched the movie version of The Martian this weekend – it was good but the book is better! :)

          And yeah, I’m sure some NASA people have read it. I bet they also cooperated with the making of the movie so everything looked legit at least – I think it’s good publicity for them, after all!

  • Despite all the glowing reviews, I’ve been leery to read this one in case it was too “manly” in a science nerd kind of way. But since I know how much you dislike those types of books, I know it’s safe to read…LOL.

    Wow, I hadn’t even thought of the Robinson Crusoe parallels! That’s pretty cool, actually. I’ve been on a real audio kick lately, so maybe I’ll listen to this one soon. :)

    • Hm, it IS a manly book, there’s no denying that, but it’s not obnoxious because of it. I mean, it’s not like Hounded by Kevin Hearne or Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series (have you read either of those?) where the guy is basically god’s gift to women and does all the manly things with his manly staff/sword. Mark Watney is a sarcastic asshole and while he has a good opinion about his own intellect, he also respects the hell out of his female colleagues (who are pretty damn badass if you ask me).

      As for the science part – I asked A. about some things and we googled others, so I was actually invested enough to try and understand, but some things just weren’t important enough to really go into the details (like the exact amount of air breathed or water consumed or whatever).

      And yeah, I immediately thought of Robinson Crusoe. It’s the whole “lone man stranded in a hostile environment trying to survive using his wits” all over again so there’s no BIG innovation here when it comes to the plot but hey, it’s a great book, it’s entertaining and funny and sometimes also scary as hell. So I’d say give it a try, even if it’s too hyped up. :)