Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher/Date Published: Random House, 2013
How I Got This Book: Purchased from Waterstones.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Predictably, The Martian is a novel set on Mars. It’s also pretty unsurprising that it’s set far, far in the future. Earth still exists, and NASA is still a massive deal – they’ve been successfully sending missions to Mars in an attempt to colonise and improve Mars. The novel centres around the eponymous Martian, also known as Mark Watney, skilled botanist and mechanical engineer, who is sent on one of the Mars missions. His mission is pretty straightforward – go to Mars and see if Earth plants can be sustained in the Martian atmosphere. Sounds thrilling, right?
The novel is an engaging read – I really did not want to put it down at any point. I loved the sardonic nature of the lead character, Mark. Multiple times, I chortled to myself at his sarcastic remarks he made via the mission logs. The majority of the story is told from Mark’s point of view, through his mission logs that he recorded after every day or so. It’s obvious that Mark must survive, given that the whole novel is written from his point of view, but I find that Weir does a decent job at building and sustaining tension – something which I will come back to in a bit.
The novel isn’t just written from the point of view of Watney, however. It also flits between NASA, and the former crew-mates of Watney. There are raised a couple of moral and ethical questions via these scenes, and whilst they’re good, I don’t think the quandaries are explored as fully as they could be – decisions that should really be discussed are made, but not really explained.
Back to Mark – he is apparently good at everything. Botany? Check. Engineering? Check. Space Engineering? Check. Chemistry? Check. Survivalist? Check. God? Well, not quite, but close. It’s quite irksome that any problem is overcome with very little hassle – a couple of days of moping and then a EUREKA moment. That said, I enjoy the way it’s written, and when you think about it, most novels (including this one) are hero fantasies, so whilst seeing the hero fail is fun, ultimately we want our protagonist to survive.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi and survival books, I definitely recommend this. Watney is a good guy, and you want him to succeed, and the prose is engaging and interesting.