the Little Red Reviewer

The Martian by Andy Weir

Posted on: December 11, 2014

Book-Review-The-MartianThe Martian by Andy Wier

published in February 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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I don’t know why I skipped this book back when it came out.  I remember it got a lot of hype, and that I’d recently been burning on some other titles being overhyped. Anyways, the book recently came out in paperback, and was chosen for the December book for my book club. The hype had long since died down, and I’d be discussing the book among friends, so the time was ripe for me to dive in.

 

Let’s get this out of way first – I absolutely, freakin’ LOVED Andy Weir’s The Martian. I’d sit down, planning to read a chapter or two, or maybe 20 pages, and before I knew it an hour had gone by and I’d devoured a chunk of the book and bitten of half my fingernails in the process. This is one helluva page turner, and Weir pulls the best kind of trick possible: You really don’t know what’s going to happen until the very last few pages.

 

The blurb on the back of the book sums up the basics nicely:

 

“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 forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, 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.

Changes are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death.”

From the very first sentence, the question becomes is he going to survive, or die? Will this book have a happy ending or a sad one?  Mark’s first priority, obviously, is how to not die quickly.  How will he make sure he has air to breathe inside the habitat? How we he ensure that he has enough water to drink? Food is another issue, especially since starving is a matter of when, not if.  Most of the book is all Mark Watney all the time, so your enjoyment of the book depends greatly on if you like him or not.

 

Personally, I couldn’t get enough of his gallows humor, his smarts,  his snark, and his impatient streak. He makes the best of a shitty situation and realizes that when you don’t have to get permission from NASA, you can take apart any damn thing you want and put it back together however you want.  He kept his cool in a situation that would have me screaming, crying, and having a nervous breakdown. But then again, do we really know how honest he’s being in his journal? He could be crying himself to sleep for all we know. Adding the variable of a possibly unreliable narrator actually makes his story all the most interest, in my opinion.

 

This happens pretty early in the book, so I don’t feel it’s a spoiler: through satellite imagery, NASA discovers that Mark is alive.  They can watch him, but they can’t get a message to him.  Mark Watney becomes a media sensation, everyone wants to know about the man left behind, and suddenly “can we save him?” becomes the most important and most expensive question. Weir throws some big questions at the reader:  How much is one life worth? How should his crewmates be told that he’s still alive?  When (if ever) is it moral to tell someone to track their research and then lie down and die?

 

Regardless of if you like Mark’s personality or not, the more you get to know him, the more you will want him to live.  You’ll want his contraptions to work, you’ll be rooting for him, you’ll want to hear his next joke, you’ll want him to not go crazy, you will want him to live.

 

Something that was a plus for me, but seemed to turn a lot of readers off was the straight up engineering math.  Mark’s survival depends on using scarce resources in just the right way. How fast does the oxygenator work?  How can he get hydrogen, and how much will he need to make a certain amount of water?   How much battery power will you get from so many solar panels if they are only charging at 80% efficiency? There are a lot of paragraphs of how will he turn ABC into a specific quantity of XYZ, and the math gets very detailed. I’ve been told a lot of readers didn’t like this, but it actually worked very well for me, and even Mark jokes about how much math he’s doing. Algebra word problems all day long?  No wonder he doesn’t go crazy, he’s in engineering heaven!

 

Like I said at the beginning of this review, The Martian is a freakin’ brilliant book. The further I got into it, the more I enjoyed it.  Mark Watney is obviously the main character, but we meet others as well, who are as developed as time allows. There are some other plot points that proved fascinating as well.  Weir took what was at first a completely binary idea (0 = he lives, 1 = he dies), and turned it into an unquantifiable emotional roller coaster.

 

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So, how’s it end? I’m not going to tell you. But I will tell you that I cried, a lot, and then I desperately wanted to watch the Apollo 13 movie, (damn you Netflix for not having it on streaming!) and the movie Moon (which I was able to borrow from a friend). Somehow I thought those two movies would give me some kind of closure. The Martian is the kind of book that once you know how it ends, you really don’t need to ever read it again, because it has one of those big reveals that you never forget.  I’ll never forget the ending of this book.  And I can’t wait to read it again.

20 Responses to "The Martian by Andy Weir"

I did something similar. I bought it not long after its release but then waited. It wasn’t consciously so the hype would die down, but I do think that played a part in my decision making at the time.

But wow, did I love this one when I read it last month!

I liked the fact that Watney’s character is so obviously blogging, if that makes sense. His journal entries read like someone playing to an audience, which is what I feel like we do when we blog, at least about personal things. We edit our thoughts and try to craft them creatively to entertain and engage, which is what I felt like Watney was doing. It is what we don’t see, but know had to be going on-he’s human after all-that added a level of interest to his updates regarding his situation.

Great book, glad you enjoyed it.

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This is the second time I’ve seen this book mentioned in so many days, so it’s bumping up my TBR list. I love the concept- it also makes a lot of sense as a movie, which is why I guess they’re making one.

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I think I’m the only person who didn’t love this book. It was good, but I don’t love it as much as others.

Maybe I’m just too cranky. 🙂

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Hello Andrea, great review! I have just got the book a few days ago, and now I can’t wait to read it…🙂

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This is definitely one of my top ten books of the year. I also was reminded of Apollo 13 which is one of my favorite movies. I can’t wait to see what Andy Weir writes next!

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I know exactly what you mean about books being overhyped and that being a turnoff (sometimes). I sometimes want to come at something in my own time, not be driven to it. In the case of this book, I heard of it, and heard it was getting good reviews, but my immediate friends weren’t inundating me with reviews, so I didn’t get that feeling. And your review makes it sound like something I’d really like!

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I know what you mean about being overhyped. Ancillary Justice was one that really disappointed me-I couldn’t even finish it.

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i did finish Ancillary Justice (or at least I think i did), but I didn’t enjoy it. it was like a 300 page dentist appointment.

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Blasphemy!

(You knew I would jump in here, right?)

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sure did! and what took you so long?🙂

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I’m reading it right now and am about a quarter of the way through. So far, it’s been really, really good. Sounds like the whole thing is as good as the first part.

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I’m a big fan of The Martian, too. Yes, it had math. No, a little math won’t kill ya. The story was captivating from page first to page last, and I love a story that can be about real science AND be such a great read.

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Yes, one of my favorite books I read this year for sure, and certainly it tops my list of best/favorite sci-fi🙂

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I have a hold on it at the library, but it’s a LONG line ahead of me so it could be months before it’s in my hands.

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I was skimming through my RSS backlog and I saw the cover of The Martian pop up and I was like, good, someone’s reading that awesome book! And then I was like, wait, Andrea’s reading it? Now? For the first time? :dies of shock: I am so glad you loved it as much as I did, and that you loved the math, too, because I super geeked out over all the equations.🙂

(Also Moon OMG that movie pretty much killed me.)

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i know, right? I remember when it came out, and everyone was going insane, and for whatever reason I was like “no. not gonna read a book this hyped.” my loss!

The more I think about it, the more I I really think all the math and engineering and problem solving is the only thing that kept Mark from going bonkers.

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[…] want to read something more about it. Here some links worth having a look. Some other book reviews (a positive one, a less enthusiastic one) and something about how realistic the whole setting […]

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Nice review. My experience is the same – it is really hard to put that book down.
One question remains though, which popped in my mind after not shaving for 5 days: what the heck was he doing with his hair and nails?

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Good question! as a life-long nail biter, i’ve got some guesses as to what happened to his fingernails. 😉

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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