The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir
Published by Crown on February 11th 2014
Genres: Science-Fiction
Pages: 369
Goodreads

A mission to Mars.
A freak accident.
One man's struggle to survive.

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 the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark 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's not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

4.5 Stars

Everything went great right up to the explosion.

This book was a very positive surprise indeed. Despite all the glowing reviews I had my doubts. The synopsis didn’t really sound like something I’d enjoy, I usually don’t gravitate towards hard sci-fi, and the descriptions that I read beforehand didn’t sound so promising to me. Fortunately, I was wrong. I loved The Martian and pretty much read it in one sitting. It’s the kind of novel I would recommend to anyone, regardless of whether or not they enjoy reading, because I think it has something for everybody.

Here are the two things that worried me most going into the novel:
1) Everyone kept saying how much science talk there was. Now, science is great and all but I don’t really love lengthy scientific descriptions in my fiction. I like it when I can see a book is well researched but I also get easily bored. Plus, I was sure I would be totally lost and feel ignorant.
2) I always heard that this book was so funny. That Mark Watney has a great sense of humour and is constantly making jokes. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I would be stranded on Mars with no backup supplies and no help anywhere in sight I wouldn’t be cracking jokes. In fact, I would probably give up right then and there. So I was worried that the whole book would be very unrealistic, that Mark Watney wouldn’t feel like a real character.

My first worry proved partially true and is the reason I took away half a star. There is a lot of science, a lot of heavy descriptions and at times it just went over my head and I lost track of what exactly was going on. Would I have enjoyed the book more without it? Maybe. But the science is part of what makes it so special so I really can’t complain too much. However, it was by far not as bad as I imagined. Mark actually broke down most of what was going on and made it better understandable and more interesting. Surprisingly, the book never made me feel stupid. A little clueless maybe, but never stupid.

My second worry luckily proved to be false. The book felt very realistic and I loved, loved, loved Mark as a character. If there is one guy who deserves to live it’s him. I admired him and rooted for him from the start. He is incredibly smart and resourceful, charming and – I know I’m repeating what everyone else has already said – so hilariousThere are so many funny quotes in this book that made me grin and even laugh out loud.

“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.

Another thing that I was very happy about was that we didn’t only get Mark’s point of view, but also saw the reactions from the people on earth and in the spaceship. This made the entire novel even more dynamic and exciting. The panic, news coverage and problem solving that was going on added drama and made the story more convincing; I felt like this could actually happen in real life.

I also thought this book was very powerful in terms of its message. It really gives you such faith in humanity: in what we can achieve but also how far we would go to help another.

If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.

I will say that there could have been a little more sense of peril for Mark. I would have liked to see him truly break down just once, to have a little more insight into what was going on inside his head behind all the snarky remarks.

Overall though, I thought this book was fantastic. Very well written and extremely engaging. I listened to the audiobook and I think that really helped me get through the long descriptive passages. I highly recommend this novel if it sounds like something that would interest you!