Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[Book Review] The Martian by Andy Weir

Fiction/Science Fiction/Fantasy

Joshua reviews THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (Crown, 2014) 

So I finished The Martian by Andy Weir, which is classified as a Science Fiction, but would almost be better described in some way as Real Science Fiction, or some other such designation.  The book doesn't attempt to create a fictitious "world" or "universe", but rather describes what would seem to be a realistic expedition to Mars that could take place in our time based on current science if costs were not a factor.

I don't read a lot of Sci-Fi (or any, for that matter), but I enjoyed the book, which I wanted to read before seeing the movie adaptation in theaters right now.  The book is basically a Robinson Crusoe story set on Mars, and it was a very gripping story even if you felt certain that the main character, Mark Watney, was likely going to be saved, as you were still fascinated by his efforts to survive until the rescue could take place.

Weir keeps the book funny and light through Watney's sarcasm and wit as he describes in "mission log" format how he came to be left (for dead) on Mars by his crew mates, and the measures he takes to adapt the resources at his disposal to his new mission of survival and rescue.  The book appeals to contemporary readers through Mark's comments on 1970s television, disco music and 20th century mystery novels, which were left behind on some of the computers by his now departed fellow astronauts.  This device allows for some humorous observations that most readers today would understand and laugh at, and also makes the book appear to be set in a time not too far from our own.

Much of the book is comprised of highly detailed descriptions of the steps Watney takes to modify his surroundings to stay alive for an extended period, including a fascinating description of how he creates usable soil to grow potatoes to increase his food supply.  Again, Watney's humor makes what might otherwise be tedious into a very readable account, and you come to accept the science that he describes as real and plausible.
If I had one criticism, it's that the book follows a somewhat predictable pattern of having say 3 to 4 of Watney's plans go well followed by a stumbling block that might prove to be his undoing, but he engineers another solution to overcome the setback.  However, that's not so much a complaint as an observation.
Overall, I thought The Martian was a great read, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie for comparison.  And hey, maybe I'll be bold enough to try another Sci-Fi novel or two!
Josh Thomas, Central Library

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