Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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Not the ideal vacation destination

The Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark Watney has a problem. Not a small problem like running out of clean socks or a medium problem like your subordinate trying to maneuver for your position at work. An actual problem. A colossal problem. A marooned on Mars because your crew mates thought you died during the emergency sandstorm evacuation problem. Mark Watney is now The Martian.

How do you survive on thirty day’s worth of supplies until the next mission arrives in four years? How do you grow food in dead Martian soil? How do you separate hydrogen from rocket fuel in an oxygen-rich environment so you can make water without blowing yourself up? How can you let someone, anyone, know you are even alive and need help getting to that next mission’s landing site when all of your communications equipment is destroyed? Just a few problems of the variety that can kill you at any given moment.

First-time author Andy Weir thinks like a scientist (he’s an engineer and son of a particle physicist, both of which absolutely show) but writes Mark like he’s your favorite, snarkily enthusiastic friend (Mark’s first words on being reminded to keep his communications clean because they are now being read around the entire globe? “Boobs”). The entire book is problem-solving one catastrophe after another, and the science is both fascinating and apparently accurate based on the amount of vetting done by massive numbers of Netsters (*see footnote) who are not me but who seem to have lots of available time. If you have one of those brains that constantly formulates the logical scenario within any given parameters, you will adore this book.

In addition to the general cheeriness that Andy gives his protagonist and the intensity of the writing in general, Andy Weir manages to pull off one of the hardest parts of writing fiction in an utterly satisfying way: the ending. Thank you, Mr. Weir, for writing one of the best closing passages I’ve ever read in fiction.

The Martian began life as a free serial posted on Andy Weir’s blog, grew into a $.99 ebook due to reader demand, debuted at #12 on the NYT Best Seller list after Crown Publishing picked it up, and is now set for theatrical release in October 2015 with Ridley Scott directing and Matt Damon starring. If you are remotely interested in science, sci-fi, space, Mars, or survival stories, you will love this book.

  • Yes, I just made up the word “Netster.” It is short for Internetster (like hipster but less hip and more internet) and is a noun meaning a person who proudly spends all available time vetting internet blog posts or articles or words written in other media (like books) for factual accuracy. It’s kind of like a troll but the focus is less on complaining and more on researching.

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My writing totals for this week:

  • 2295 words on Monde d’Azur (would be higher but I was on vacation all last week).
  • Total word count for Monde d’Azur: 25,830 words on the 1st draft.