Book review: The Martian

Omigod, did I love this book. I laughed, I cried, and I want to see the movie when it gets made, which it inevitably will.

The Martian is the story of an astronaut named Mark Watney who is presumed dead during the Ares 3 mission and left behind on Mars. Alone. With a habitat (the "Hab") and a limited amount of food, but no way to survive long enough for the arrival of the Ares 4 mission, years away and on the other side of the planet.

Instead of despairing, Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, throws every ounce of his being into finding a way to survive, and he faces every life and death situation that Mars throws at him with perseverance, McGyver-like ingenuity, and a wonderful sense of humor. Although we also hear from the rest of the Ares 3 crew as well as NASA, much of the book is written in first person and I fell completely and totally in love with Mark Watney. He made me care about him from the first page to the last, and I laughed out loud, over and over again. I even cried a little at one point.

That said, I'm the first to admit that this book is a nerd-fest. It reeks of scientific accuracy. There wasn't a single moment that struck me as unrealistic or unbelievable (except perhaps that he had a few too many challenges), and if it weren't so readable, it would feel a little like a non-fiction account. It reminded me a lot of Kim Robinson's Mars trilogy, except it was only one volume, a lot more fun to read, and with much better characters. (Sorry about that, Kim.)

This was one of the best books I've read in years. I could not put it down. If you like realistic science fiction, I highly recommend it. This is Andy Weir's first novel, and it was originally self-published. I hope he's working on his second, because I'll buy it. Although I somehow doubt it could be as enjoyable and special as this one. I honestly don't know how he could top it.

P.S. I'm in the middle of a cross-country move from California to Pennsylvania, which is why I begged Jess and sunbunny to help me out with my show reviews -- no DVR, and no way to be sure I could actually catch the show! But I enjoyed this book so much as I languished in motel rooms that I had to write a quick review and share the love.

Four out of four dehydrated potatoes,

Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.


kikishua said...

I just got this from the library... moved it to the top of the pile based on this!

Billie Doux said...

kikishua -- please let me know what you think of it!

CrazyCris said...

Sounds like a blast! I've got a mile-long list of books to get through this Spring (I'm in the midst of a historical fiction near-overdose!), but I've put this on my Amazon "wish list" to remind me to get it! :o)

Joseph Pennycook said...

I bought this on my kindle two days ago, after reading this review, and I just finished it. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I agree with everything you said in the review. I was wondering, which bit was it that made cry. Trying to be as spoiler free as possible, the bit where I got closest to tearing up was during one of the sections where the Ares 3 crew members were talking to their families, and we learned about an emergency plan the crew had.

I loved the format of the book, how there were so many different sources of information like the written log and communication logs. My only criticism was that the section which was meant to be an audio log read exactly like the written logs, and it didn't seem likely he'd speak with such eloquence in the situation.

Billie Doux said...

Joseph, yes, I believe that's when I teared up. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did.

CrazyCris, I hope you enjoy it, too.

Anonymous said...

Your review inspired me to read this novel, and I am so glad I did. I cried at multiple points! I don't want to list at what points for fear of spoilers. I honestly skipped over a bunch of the scientific explanations, particularly Watney's explanations of how he was making things work, and I don't feel like I missed much of the novel and I still really enjoyed it.

My one complaint is that I really wish there had been an epilogue of some sorts, like one or two years later? I was sort of dying to know what happens when Hermes lands back on Earth.

Danielle said...

Finally got this yesterday after being on hold for months at my library. I finished just now and what a great book!! I cried and laughed as the rest of you have. I admit that some of the science parts I was tempted to skim over but "Mark" is a great teacher and read it all!!

rebecca_s921 said...

Finished this over a long flight with lost connections. I usually geek out at all the scientific explanations but the first few chapters had so much I felt my eyes glaze over and my brain shut down. However by chapter 5 or 6 I started to really care about the poor guy, and get invested in not only Watney, but also the NASA / JPL personnel as well as the Hermes crew. I was surprised that I teared up over several passages and laughed like a loon frequently. A truly wonderful book.

ChrisB said...

Wow! What a book. It took me a while to completely embrace it, but once I did, I pretty much put my life on hold to finish it. The humor was unexpected and made me laugh out loud more than once. And, I must admit, that I teared up on a couple of occasions.

I am completely in love with Mark Watney. He may believe that botanist/mechanical engineers don't have the women swarming, but I would love to have a drink with the man.

Thank you for the suggestion, Billie. I would never have read it without reading this review.