The Martian – Book Review
Written by: Andy Weir
Published by: Broadway Books
by Andy Weir
If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that one of the funniest and most exciting books I was going to read in 2014 would be about a scientists who gets stranded on Mars and has to do a lot of math and engineering to survive, I would’ve laughed and thought it impossible. Surprisingly, Andy Weir’s The Martian was exactly that, and it didn’t stop there: it was also one of the smartest and unapologetically educational narratives I’ve read in a long time.
The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer who suffers an accident during a sandstorm and is left for dead on the surface of Mars. Luckily, Watney survived the ordeal, but he wakes up to find himself alone and wounded on an incredibly inhospitable environment. Despite his dire circumstances, the astronaut consistently comes up with solutions to all his problems and, between his bright mind and capacity for improvisation, he figures out ways to survive. What follows is a very entertaining and smart narrative about a man fighting to stay alive and never losing his humor while doing so.
While many narratives revolve around a hero with an uncanny ability to overcome what seem like insurmountable obstacles, The Martian actually presents a man with all the required tools, training, and intellectual prowess to do so. Watney is brilliant, and his will to live pushes him to use every bit of knowledge to his advantage. When the story starts delving into math, I got scared, but soon realized Weir has a knack for making numbers and problem solving easy to understand and as engaging as any other aspect of this adventure.
The science is interesting and the situations presented in Mars as well as back on Earth and on the spaceship that’s carrying Watney’s crewmates back home can only be called gripping. However, the element that makes this narrative stand out from all current science fiction and adventure novels is the relentless humor with which the author decided to infuse the text. Regardless of how close he comes to death or how dangerous the next experiment is, Watney remains a very funny, likeable character who possesses a great sense of humor that’s as responsible for keeping him alive as his academic training and engineering skills. This translates into a prose that makes the main character a genius that wouldn’t be out of place drinking a beer in a small-town bar, and his voice echoes that even when discussing science and survival:
“My morning piss goes in a resealable plastic box. When I open it, the rover reeks like a truck-stop men’s room. I could take it outside and let it boil off. But I worked hard to make that water, and the last thing I’m going to do is waste it. I’ll feed it to the water reclaimer when I get back.”
The Martian repeatedly places the reader in that edge-of-your-seat moment that all action narratives strive to achieve. There is danger, explosions, experimentation, a few tips of the hat to popular culture, and plenty of emotional ups and downs. Weir makes it seem like laughing in the face of death is a perfectly natural thing, and readers will do so, probably out loud, many times while reading these 384 pages. I know 2014 is not over yet, but I doubt I’ll read a better science fiction narrative this year.
Reviewed by Gabino Iglesias
SHOP – The Martian
Shop Buzzy Tees!