Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group (2012)
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Pages: 369
Price: $24.00

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission 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 get 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. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

I can't imagine a more terrifying situation than the one tackled in this book. The protagonist is the sole human on an entire planet that's not necessarily TRYING to kill him, it just so happens that everything about the planet is lethal. After the disaster that stranded him, Watney puts his problem solving skills to the ultimate test; a battle for survival in the the worst setting imaginable.

Author Andy Weir wrote this novel in a very conversational tone, it's not stuffy and even the technical explanations are handled in such a way that the reader seldom feels like they're in over their head. Every part of the story moves forward at a startling pace, as Watney is hammered with one complication after another the reader finds themselves cheering along with him after each near disaster is averted. The conversational style feels right at home when the story is being told by Watney through logs that he keeps throughout the mission, but it seems to do a disservice to the characters on Earth. They all seem to speak the same way, with little in dialogue or temperament helping the reader differentiate between the various ancillary characters.

For the most part I was really interested in the applications of science and technology in this book; occasionally though there comes a time when it gets taken a little too far. In these instances it made the next wise ass comments very welcome in breaking up the the technical explanations. On the topic of wise ass comments and jokes, they're in there with plenty to spare. What Weir seemed to be trying to do is to show us that Watney deals with stress by cracking wise. Most of the time it works, but I would've liked to see a little more detail on the psychological side, surely our hero wasn't so self-assured throughout his entire ordeal.

Conclusions: Aside from some minor gripes, this is a well told story. What it lacks in character development it makes up for with a riveting story. Andy Weir's devotion to the subject is evident in every sentence; you can tell that this is a subject that he has lots of passion for. That passion is what makes the book so fun, it seems like Mr. Weir had fun writing it, and that fun is infectious.

Rating: 8/10

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