The Martian - Book Review

I’m pretty much fucked

These are the first words of Andy Weir’s last book — The Martian. In one sentence, I would describe the book as a mix of Apollo 13, Robinson Crusoe and Gravity… on Mars, with a lot of sarcastic humour.

The story takes place somewhere in the near future, maybe 10–15 years from now. It is the time of the first manned missions to Mars. The crew of Ares 1 were the first to step on the Martian surface and got all the fame by making the history. The following mission, Ares 2, attract less attention from the public, as do every other consequent mission of the Ares program. It may be hard to believe, but Martian missions become a common thing. They are considered as eventful as when a rocket launches today’s world.

Mark Watney is a member of the third manned mission to Mars — Ares 3. Everything was going according to plan until the sixth day on the surface of Mars. Extremely strong storm force to cancel the mission and evacuate the crew from the planet. During the evacuation, there was an accident in which Mark has been knocked out. His crewmembers, thinking he is dead, left him behind.

But Mark wasn’t dead. His lonely fight to survive on Red Planet had just begun.

Staying alive in a hostile environment is a tough challenge on Earth. Staying alive on Mars makes it a touch harder. After listing things that can kill him in a matter of seconds and making an ad-hoc plan to survive, Mark started to work.

The Martian is a story about creativity, persistence and hope.

When writing his book, Andy Weir was consulting with engineers from NASA, so that every fact and technology, and even the physics on Mars, would be close to what a real Mark would experience on real Mars. The attention to detail is astonishing. If you have the mind of a maker/engineer you will find it extra fun imagining what Mark is doing and how it would work. You can even double check the facts and discover that everything is correct and plausible. The technologies described in the book are either currently available, currently being tested or soon to be available, in the near future. Thanks to that, The Martian is closer to science than to fiction.

It delightful to read how Mark tackles everything that Mars throws at him. His creativity is insane and you can literally learn from him. There are many moments in the book in which you will be impressed by the things he does.

Andy Weir balances the tension in quite a good way. Although sometimes you are asking yourself how much Mark has yet to suffer. You think he’s about to escape this deadly planet, and suddenly something unexpected happens (on second thought, it is obvious taking into account the number of pages left). But every “unexpected” thing or accident is a logical consequence of Mark’s previous choices and the way the Universe work. Once again, hats off to Andy for his attention to detail.

The book is mostly written as a journal. Because of that, we are informed about what happens after the fact, when Mark (hopefully) returns to base and writes down the events of the day. The language used by Mark spoke to me very well. He uses a mix of technical and scientific jargon with a healthy dose of sarcasm and distance to himself. There are many occasions where he’ll have you laughing. I especially recommend Mark’s thoughts on being a space pirate. Genius!

Sometimes action moves back to the Earth or to Mark’s crewmembers in the capsule returning home. On Earth, we meet and observe struggles of people from NASA trying whatever they can do to keep Mark alive. In the capsule, we see how his fellow crewmembers react to the news of Mark still being alive and to the mission control propositions. The perspective moves from first-person to third-person, which does disturb flow of the book a bit. I’m not saying that these parts are bad, though I would say that _The Martian_would be as good as it is even without moving the story back to Earth. The story would be more claustrophobic and the bond between Mark and the reader might have become more personal.

If you are a fan of science-fiction books or if you are interested in space exploration, then The Martian is a book for you. Read it and you won’t be disappointed. The story, the attention to technical and scientific detail, and its particular kind of sarcastic humour will make the time you spend with the book worth it. I highly recommend this book.

It’s also worth noting that there will be a movie based on the book. It will be directed by Ridley Scott with Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Please, don’t suck.