Sunday, July 26, 2015

Books – The Martian by Andy Weir

I’m totally in love with The Martian by Andy Weir. This book blew my mind. 

I saw The Martian on several of the best book lists for last year, but I passed on reading it. I’m not much on hard science fiction, and the idea of a guy stuck on Mars alone for an entire book seemed boring. It would take an exceptionally talented writer to pull it off. Enter Andy Weir.  

The Martian is the best book I’ve read in a long, long time and definitely the best thing I’ve read this year. I know it will end up being one of my all-time favorite books. In the near future, Mark Watney is an engineer/botanist on the second manned mission to Mars. When a freak sandstorm hits and the mission is scrapped, Watney is injured and to all appearances killed during the storm. His comrades are forced to flee the planet and head home, mourning their friend. The problem is, Watney isn’t dead. His suit auto-seals after a breech, and when he regains consciousness, he is abandoned on Mars with very little food and water and oxygen enough for a few days. It will be at least four years before a rescue can even be attempted, and that is if he can alert anyone to the fact that he is not dead. Chances are he’ll starve to death, freeze to death or suffocate long before anyone even knows he’s alive. 

That’s when things get interesting. I hate to ruin one sentence in this roller coaster ride of a novel, but I do want to encourage people to devour it. Mark pools his food, shelter options and oxygen, then finds simple but effective ways to extend them for at least a short period. On Earth, NASA discovers he is alive and finds some difficult but effective ways to communicate with him. He becomes a celebrity on earth with daily news stories and billions of dollars committed to saving his life. The problem is, even with peak efficiency from every party—a stretch under normal circumstances—his food will run out months before a rescue operation can be mounted.  

Weir is a genius and my favorite new writer. He writes Watney as an intelligent problem solver, but also a bit nerdy with a whimsical sense of humor. Watney’s internal dialog as he logs his daily struggles are a joy to read. His delight as he solves one devastating, unsolvable problem after another puts the reader in the place of this man who is doomed but refuses to give up hope. The planet keeps trying to kill him, and he keeps finding ways not to die. In the end, the bottom line haunts him and everyone on Earth ... he doesn’t have enough food to wait for a rescue attempt. Meanwhile, NASA is putting everything they have into brainstorming ways for Mark to survive. But their scientists are fighting nature, time, distance and politics (sometimes world politics) to save him. 

I won’t give away one more of the many setbacks and dizzying plot points faced by astronaut Mark Watney, the loneliest man on Mars. The Martian is a triumph of plotting, dialog and characterization. The characters are fully realized, the writing sharp and funny. I listened to the book on CD and lost count of how many times I guffawed aloud. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You’ll love it. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Thanks to ace writer Steve Wellington for the word-of-mouth recommendation. 


  1. Thanks for the tip of the hat - as they used to say when people wore hats. Real hats. Daniel (14) is reading it cover to cover and has pledge to take me to the IMAX screening of the movie for a belated Father's Day gift. Jerry, you must come along as well. (That's what she said.)

    - My favorite line from the book.

  2. My favorite scene: The leader of NASA is ruminating about what Watney is going through, all alone on Mars. He says something like, "I'd give anything to know what Watney is thinking right now."

    Watney Log: "How can Aquaman mentally control whales? They're mammals."

    Comedy gold.