SciFi for the Rest of Us: "The Martian”, by Andy Weir - Book Review

The Martian is my first audio book review. I used to think this was cheating, but then I started a long daily commute that drove me to the edge of insanity. A friend recommended audio books as a way to not only cope, but expand my literary repertoire. Another friend recommended The Martian. As it turns out, I’m hooked.

My hesitation in starting audio books is that it isn’t reading. Am I using my brain the same way? Am I using the same number of cells and keeping my cognitive functions as engaged as when sitting down with an actual book in my hand? Ah, who cares. I was completely engaged. I started walking around my house with my headphones in while folding laundry. I had to hear more. And my commute? Much more tolerable. In fact…well, don’t tell my boss.

Andy Weir is a self-proclaimed “space nerd” and worked as a programmer and software engineer since age 15. His debut novel embraces his nerdy tendencies.  This guy loves space. And the book (audio) was really good. I do have a confession though. There is a lot of time with our hero spent alone on Mars. He recites calculations and measurements about chemistry, physics, and agriculture ad nauseam. I fast forwarded. Yep, I did. And I’m not sorry. Still got the gist and don’t feel I missed a thing.

The Martian
By Andy Weir

Our protagonist is Mark Watney, a botanist, engineer, and astronaut. He’s left behind on Mars after a terrible dust storm forces the crew to evacuate. In the wind and blinding storm, Mark is hurt and left for dead. When he awakes, it’s only because the blood from his wound has clotted the space suit and somehow saves his life. We then journey with Mark as he finds his way through the Martian wasteland, calculating how long he has to live, his amount of food, water, oxygen, and how to make more of it all so he can survive. And survive for what? No one knows he’s alive. Over two months into his remote isolation (isn’t that an understatement?), he is able to make contact with Earth. For me, this is when the story picks up.

The novel’s audio narrator did a fine job of bringing in the voices of the supporting characters, especially, Dr. Kapoor, NASA’s Director of the Mars mission. Weir’s writing brought to life the personalities and angst of those trying to save Watney. And Watney himself is an impressive and likable character. He finds his way through adversity after adversity, conducts painstaking planning, and sometimes wings it. He wants to give up and he wants to go home, and throughout has a sense of humor. As we go through this painstaking course with Mark, we sigh and wince at the setbacks, and raise our hands in the air to celebrate the joy we hear from the NASA team back on Earth when there are successes.

The film version of The Martian has just been released, with Matt Damon as the lead. I think he’ll be perfect for Watney’s personality. See the movie, read the book - somehow experience the nerdy world of Andy Weir. You won’t be sorry.

Published: 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House

Vickie’s rating: 4 stars