The Martian by Andy Weir (4 out of 5)
Well, this one made the rounds before I got to it. First, Curtis read it. Then Felicia read it. I’m told my boss read it. I started it months ago and then it mysteriously vanished underneath a pile of staggering young adult titles that SOMEONE kept foisting on me in the ever-present quest to have feedback for their reps (Hint: GEMINI).. It’s fine, I didn’t fight those young adult books, so it’s my damn fault this fine piece of literature has languished on my bookshelf since December, when I got the copy of it. Shame, shame, G.
I loved this book- it reminded me a lot of Drew Magary’s “The Postmortal”. Our hero, astronaut Mark Watney, has a voice very similar to John, our hero of Magary’s book. In fact, if you read The Martian and want a similar feel, you better read “The Postmortal“. That means you, Curtis!
Astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first six astronauts to walk on the surface of Mars. A dust storm happens, tearing his suit and nearly killing him in the process. The other five astronauts on his team leave, believing there’s no way in hell he survived that. Aha! Mark Watney is no normal dude, not only did he survive, but he’s left to navigate the Red Planet on his own- running low on food, no signal to communicate to NASA that he’s survived this, damaged machinery, a limited supply of oxygen, and other fun “perks” of being stuck on Mars. What Mars didn’t count on? Mark Watney being an incredibly skilled, intelligent, and sarcastic, wiley botanist who figures out how to survive on his smart skills alone- (the potatoes are genius; the process of culling them, keeping them eatable, etc. It’s a process that continues throughout the book. But please, remember- DON’T drink the Potato Skin Tea!), and continues to try to repair equipment that’s trashed beyond repair. One thing after another fells this guy, but this motherfucker doesn’t quit trying to find an answer. Even being stuck with his fellow astronaut’s seemingly endless supply of 1970’s sitcoms and disco, he makes it work. He makes it all work, even some close calls that could end so catastrophically that at several points of the book, I had to hold my breath. I was trying to finish it in one of the few quiet moments at the store today, and nearing the end, well, it got pretty funny and still semi-scary, so my face must have mirrored what I was reading, because the customer remarked upon it. It’s that sort of book for someone like me with an expressive face, I guess. I laughed aloud at more parts than I can illustrate for you here, but if you read it, you’ll find out yourself! Watney manages to figure out a way to communicate with NASA and the whole world is following his miraculous survival, including his five fellow astronauts on the mission. You’re pulled into their lives as well, and that was an enjoyable process. You can tell by their individual reactions and shared determination to get Watney out of there just how much they love and respect their fellow smart-ass crew member. NASA is also busting its balls to get him out of there in one piece, and that spirit doesn’t quite ever leave the book. That was a nice side. I’ve had other books where the protagonist was in mortal danger, and some bureaucratic rug fucker says to abort mission. It was nice to read a book where the determination to get the lead out of there never left. Watney goes through a number of scares and misadventures that lead to possibly cataclysmic consequences, but he keeps his humor throughout, only losing it in one scene in the book, where it’s hard for you not to be crying along with him. Overall, I can’t tell you how great this book was.
The only dissenting vote was the end. If I remember correctly, Felicia said my general manager had a problem with the ending. I do too..only because it almost runs too smoothly for what they have to accomplish to get Watney off of Mars for good. I also have to give serious credit to the author for putting some amazing math and science scenes in here; right up Dan and Felicia’s alleys, respectively. I had slight disagreement with the end only because I expected some sort of scientific malady, and instead it ran way too well, like a Party City brunch at Paris Hilton’s hacienda. There should have been a bit more suspense with how it ended, because of what the poor guy and his team had to go through at various points throughout the book. Otherwise, it’s absorbing, funny, realistic, and fun. Go out and get a copy!
*My copy was received from free, courtesy of Blogging For Books, in return for a honest review.