Right from the outset I’m going to say that I can’t believe it took me this long to read The Martian by Andy Weir. I can remember walking into bookstores and walking past this book thinking, ‘Should I buy it?’ so many times it’s not even funny.
I think I had quite a few misconceptions about this book – all to do with me and not with reviews from the book or even the trailer for the movie, because I didn’t even watch those despite Matt Damon playing the lead role. I don’t know what it was, but I thought this book would be really depressing and a slow lead – hello, a character stranded on Mars by himself! – but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The Martian is honestly one of the funniest books I have ever read. The entire time I was reading it – and I read it in one day – I was laughing and wanting to know what happened next. Which is not to say that I didn’t take in the seriousness of the idea of a person being stranded on Mars, but I think part of the book’s appeal is in the resourcefulness of human beings.
For those of you who aren’t at all familiar with the book, the plot is:
Mark Whatney is a member of a six-man research team on Mars. Six days into their stay on Mars an unexpected storm forces the team to abandon their mission and return to Earth. During the storm, Whatney is hit by debris and presumed dead by the crew who have to leave before their launch module tips over in the storm.
Whatney, however, is not dead, and left stranded on Mars with all the equipment the team left behind. He has to find a way to survive in an alien landscape, rationing his food, trying to grow his own and dealing with many problems that crop up from being alone on an unforgiving planet with no way of communicating with Earth.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Mission Control has learnt hat Whatney is still alive and unable to communicate with them. We follow their course of action as they try to reestablish communication and bring home all of their astronauts safely.
Whatney’s story is told via his Log Entries. As a character, he has a great sense of humour and resourcefulness which is what he relies on to help him survive in the harsh Mars environment. He is a engineer and botanist (a good combination of skills to have when stranded on Mars). He’s very likeable and as a reader, you really want to see him survive.
When the story switches perspectives to that of the NASA on Earth or the remaining crew members on their way back to Earth, we move out of the Daily Logs and into a more standard narrative style. These characters aren’t as well-developed as Whatney, however, we do find out enough to make a connection with some of them.
There are a lot of science-y ideas thrown around in this book. I have no idea if any of them are even remotely possible, but you know what? I don’t care. Within the context of the story, they all seemed to make sense and Whatney may even resemble a MacGyver type figure who can fix tears in space-suits with duct tape. (He really loves his duct tape!)
The combination of the storytelling, humour and fast-pace have made this my favourite book I’ve read this year, and I definitely rate this book five stars.