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The Martian by Andy Weir Review - Book in a Sitting Series

Updated on August 7, 2015

What is "Book in a Sitting" series

Time is valuable. Finding time to do things you love is hard. And if you love spending valuable time reading a book, you certainly don't want to waste it on crappy book. Here is my attempt to bring you the books that are short and can be read in one sitting.

Disclaimer: I do not guarantee you will love this book. I guarantee there is a value in this book and you should read the review and decide for yourself if it's your cup of tea or not.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is the first published novel by American author Andy Weir. It was originally self - published in 2011. A science fiction novel, the book follows Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer left behind by the rest of his crew after they saw him impaled in a Martian sandstorm during their attempt to leave the planet. Watney survived his injuries and continues to come up with a series of ingenious and increasingly desperate attempts to survive long enough for NASA to rescue him.

Plot Summary

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 while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive - and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he 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 isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills - and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit - he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Tom Hanks in Cast Away
Tom Hanks in Cast Away

People getting stranded on deserted island, trying to survive is an old idea. Tom Hanks did it in Cast Away, Daniel Defoe told us a story about Robinson Crusoe few centuries ago. Man against nature, fighting to survive is nothing new in storytelling.

Both Tom Hanks and Robinson Crusoe had to use their skills and resources around them to survive. Making shelters, starting fires, foraging for food, plenty of obstacles for both of them. Mark Watney puts them both to shame. Stranded on a planet where you can't breathe the atmosphere and have no source of food or water anywhere, where even the smallest mistake can kill you is a whole new level.


To quote Mark Watney:

If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.


It's a hard sci-fi that would make Arthur C. Clarke proud

The Martian was a strange reading experiences. There were portions that I found somewhat boring - the book goes into so much exhaustive detail about each and every plan Watney executes that any reader who isn't an engineer or similar breed of geek might find tiresome. However, Weir makes such an unexpected twist, from such little thing, that the book sucks you back in and keeps you interested until switching gears back to where you were before. Weir noted in an interview that he found that sweet spot as an author where you’re surprising yourself with plot twists that seemingly come from out of nowhere. He seemed to take joy in finding ways to screw over his protagonist while also challenging himself to create ways in which to keep Watney breathing.

I can’t even imagine the extent to which Weir went to try and get technical details right while trying to make his audience engaged. It’s not like he could go to NASA and ask for public records on manned missions to Mars and adapt those so average Joe can understand them. You can tell Andy Weir is in love with space exploration and knows what he's writing about. At least he convinced me in that.



Book Cover
Book Cover

What this book is not

This is not a book about love, romance or relationships. There are no heroes and good guys, no villains and bad guys. There are no cliches that make the book predictable and dialogue that makes you cringe. It actually looks like Weir is mocking the tropes through the character of Watney.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

If you are looking for Fifty Shades of Mars or similar experience you should skip this book, it's all business here. You won't find in this book a lot of reflection or heartfelt reminiscing. Many writers would go to extreme lenghts to show us why Watney wants to go home and who awaits him there. Not here! There are no flashbacks of our main character with his love interest, or him spending quality time with his family. This is a book about a guy with an above average intellect trying to survive in unforgiving enviroment of Mars. And that's the beauty of it.

What this book is

The Martian is fast-paced, action-packed book about a man fighting against all the odds. Weir did his research and it paid off. Sure, I don't need to know how Watney hooked hose A to hose B, fixed this or that using parts from different this or that. But reading all that built up our trust in Watney that he actually knew what the hell was he doing. Convincing readers like that is not a small feat, and Weir did spectacular job. Adding different perspectives and multiple narratives only serves to make the book more exciting. Just when you think the book is starting to get a bit boring, something extraordinary happens and you just have to keep reading the book.

What this book is about is best described in this XKCD comic:

Source

"Wait, a trailer?" you might think. That's right, there is an upcoming movie adaptation of the book, directed by Ridley Scott and Matt Damon as Mark Watney. First trailer is out, and while it didn't get the positive reviews by hardcore fans of the book, Andy Weir himself says he is happy with the screenplay and he approved it.

WARNING: TRAILER CONTAINS MINOR BOOK SPOILERS

Shortcomings

It was hard to visualize the environment because the narrator would describe things as he saw them, through the eyes of an engineer. If Weir sometimes described how beautiful the surrounding is (or isn't) it would be much more believeable.

While the characters are memorable, they are simply flat, with almost no character progression.

Unfortunately you can see this is author's first novel, but if this is indication of what's to come from him, Andy Weir is on a good way to join the giants that shaped sci-fi history.

Andy Weir
Andy Weir

About the author

Andy Weir was born and raised in California, the only child of a particle-physicist father and an electrical-engineer mother who divorced when he was 8. Weir grew up reading classic science fiction such as the works of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.At the age of 15, he began working as a computer programmer for Sandia National Laboratories. He studied computer science at UC San Diego, although he did not graduate. He worked as a programmer for several software companies, including AOL and Blizzard, where he worked on Warcraft 2.

Weir began writing science fiction in his 20s and published work on his website for years. His first work to gain significant attention was "The Egg", a short story that has been adapted into a number of YouTube videos and a one-act play.

Final words

The Martian is an excellent book that can be read in one sitting. It capivates you from the first few pages that you read and makes you read it to the end. If you love sci - fi, fast, action packed short novels, The Martian is the perfect book for you.

Make sure you read it now before the movie comes out, so you can brag to all your friends on how hipster you are!

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4.7 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of The Martian by Andy Weir

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