The Martian by Andy Weir

the martian 2“Mars is there, waiting to be reached.” – Buzz Aldrin

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

After an accident during a dust storm, Mark Watney finds himself alone on Mars. His colleagues in the Ares 3 expedition believed he was dead and were forced to evacuate the planet while they still could. The communications system was broken in the storm so Mark can’t let anyone know he’s alive. And it’s four years till the next scheduled mission to Mars. Fortunately Mark has a few things going for him. He’s an engineer and a botanist, there’s quite a lot of equipment left over from the mission including the Hab – the living quarters complete with atmospheric and water reclamation equipment – and, perhaps most importantly, he has twelve potatoes. And most of all he has the determination to survive…

It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the Airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid”. I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

This is a fantastic adventure story set in the near future. It only just scrapes into the sci-fi category since all the science and equipment is pretty much stuff that’s available now – and though it’s chock full of science and technology, it’s presented in a way that makes it not just interesting but fun. Mark is a hero of the old school – he just decides to get on with things and doesn’t waste time angsting or philosophising. And he’s got a great sense of humour which keeps the whole thing deliciously light-hearted. It reminded me of the way old-time adventure stories were written – the Challenger books or the Quatermain stories mixed with a generous dash of HG Wells – but brought bang up to date in terms of language and setting. And although Mark is heroic, he’s a believable hero – he’s a NASA-trained astronaut with a scientific background, so it’s easy to accept that he knows how to make stuff work and also to believe that he is psychologically and physically equipped to deal with this kind of extreme situation.

If I could have anything, it would be a radio to ask NASA the safe path down the Ramp. Well, if I could have anything, it would be for the green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars to rescue me so she can learn more about this Earth thing called “lovemaking”.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a woman. Just sayin’.

mars and earth

As the book progresses we also get to meet the people in mission control and Mark’s erstwhile colleagues on the space-ship. Again, although they are shocked by what has happened, they show their professionalism by just focussing on finding a solution, reacting to each new development as it happens. So refreshing to not have to spend hours and hours reading about how they felt! There’s a place for that in fiction obviously, but sometimes there’s a place for a rollicking good roller-coaster of an adventure yarn too – and that’s what this is.

Andy Weir
Andy Weir

When a book becomes a huge runaway bestseller, there’s always the fear that it can’t live up to the hype. Fear not! This one certainly does! It started out as a self-published book which sold in the zillions, has now gone on to be traditionally published, and the film rights have already been bought up. Well written, though not at all literary; great characterisation in the tradition of the heroes of Star Trek, Buchan et al; enough science and stuff to satisfy the geekiest geek but explained simply and humorously enough for us technophobes to understand – and a brilliantly depicted setting on the surface of Mars. All the best sci-fi comes from Mars and this is a new one to add to that illustrious list. Put it on your TBR!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Ebury.

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52 thoughts on “The Martian by Andy Weir

  1. FictionFan – I’m glad you classified this as ‘adventure’ more than really sci-fi as such. As you say, there’s a time for a good adventure story and this certainly sounds like one. Thanks as ever for the excellent review.

    • Really enjoyed this one! Sometimes it’s just a pleasure to read something that’s pure entertainment and doesn’t require too much thought. Especially when it’s well written. 🙂

  2. I did enjoy this one – yes, adventure yarn is exactly right – and a delightful, humorous main protagonist. I would just have liked to see perhaps more tension down below, perhaps a baddy or two to complicate matters. As if surviving on Mars isn’t complicated enough…

    • I think I was just in the right mood for something light where everyone was one of the good guys. A real feel-good read – I wouldn’t want every book to be like this, but I do love an occasional adventure!

  3. This wouldn’t normally be my sort of book, but this is the third positive review I’ve read from people whose opinions I respect. I saw a copy in our Local Waterstones last time I was in. I shall have to see if it’s still there.

    • Nor me, Alex, but like you I’d seen a few rave reviews from reliable sources and decided to go for it. Great fun – not literature, but just well-written lighthearted entertainment. It’s still available from NetGalley I think.

  4. Great review.
    I will be trying to find a place on my Books to Read list. I already am on the list from the library. I’m not sure when I will get it, so I will just have to read it when I get it.

    • Thanks! I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one – it’s a really great fun read. The kind of thing I can imagine me reading again whenever I need cheering up. 😀

      • Well, I got “The Martian” from the library. I delayed starting it for a couple of days, so that I would be able to enjoy it. Boy, did I. I didn’t want to put it down. Thanks for the heads up. A great read. So much fun!
        I put up the review this morning. A Review of The Martian by Andy Weir

        • Definitely a great, fun read – glad you enjoyed it too. I’m currently reading Thirteen – a factual account of the Apollo 13 near-disaster, and can’t help spotting the similarities…

  5. I’ll bet he’s not planning to make potato soup. Sounds great! I’m thinking I’ll send this one to my hub’s iCloud reader. Then I can sneak a peak, too. You are so bad for me. I’m supposed to be writing more than I’m reading.

    • It’s amazing what you can do with potatoes…I’m taking this book with me when I go on my first interplanetary holiday – handy survival hints, just in case…

      What is your hub’s iCloud reader? That sounds almost like sci-fi itself…

      • When you download books, you can download them to the iCloud so you can read them on whatever device you have at hand. We’re still learning how it all works. But so far, it’s worked on my iPhone and MacBook Air. It’s magic, as they say.

        • Very cool! I can read from the Amazon cloud on my laptop in theory, but I’ve never really tried it properly. (Of course, that’s because my Kindle is always with me… 😉 )

  6. That sounds like something I’d enjoy. I’ll take the adventure over tech-speak any day, and this sounds like it has plenty of the first and not that much of the second. I will keep an eye out for it, thanks for the review.

    • There’s a lot of sciency stuff in it, but it’s all kept quite light-hearted and didn’t baffle me too much – or was easy to ignore when it did! Hope you enjoy it, if you read it! 🙂

  7. I’m returning to this post to let you know that my son has read this book five or six times, now. My husband has read it once. And we have all seen the film. The guys tell me that the book is even better than the film. I’ll be adding this one to the pile.

    • Oh, that’s brilliant! Thanks for letting me know! 😀 I definitely think the book wins – the film’s good, but in the book it’s largely an internal monologue from the lovely Mark, so quite hard to get over on film. There’s so much humour in it – I really have never looked at potatoes the same way again…! Oh, I am jealous – I remember the days when I could read a book again and again till it fell apart… it seems to be something we lose as we age, sadly.

  8. My husband and I always have reading time before bed, during which I read aloud to him (we used to take turns reading aloud, but I’m a bad listener). This sounds like it would be a good bedtime choice!

    • What a great way to end the day! Yes, I suspect you’ll both enjoy this one – it’s massively popular and I’ve hardly seen a negative review of it, even from people who would never usually read either sci-fi or adventure novels. Enjoy! 😀

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