I was going through the list of books I’ve read this year deciding what I should review next when I realized that I’ve never reviewed The Martian. This book is possibly my favorite book of all time. The year I read it, I bought six copies and gave them to my friends and family because a novel like this is one that demands to be shared (but no one can have my copy). It’s also a novel I find incredibly hard to review. I love every aspect of it; I find it nearly impossible to be objective with the few flaws it does have. I’ve probably read this book at least ten times, and I’ve enjoyed it more and more each time.
The book follows Mark Watney as he embarks on a groundbreaking mission to Mars with his team. Their mission is cut short by a storm and they are forced to immediately evacuate. During the evacuation, Mark is injured and presumed dead by the rest of his team. He wakes up the next day to find he’s been abandoned on Mars with no real hope of survival. The rest of the book sees Mark rely heavily on his botany and engineering backgrounds, fighting to survive on the inhospitable red planet.
My favorite part about this book is how realistic it is. Andy Weir did painstaking research to make his novel as grounded in fact as possible. It’s impossible not to appreciate the attention to detail he pays, all of the science is explained, he doesn’t make the reader take any massive leaps of logic or faith. As you read this book, it’s easy to believe that NASA could be zipping off to Mars tomorrow.
I love Mark Watney. He’s like me if you magnify the sarcasm and wit by ten. He’s a highly trained NASA astronaut with a background in engineering and botany (an odd combo, but variety is the spice of life). Most people would have a pretty bleak disposition at the prospect of being stranded on Mars with no way home and a dwindling food source, but not Mark. He effortlessly carries the plot with his snark, charm, humor, and wit. The book is mostly focused on Mark (with later chapters about NASA and their efforts to save Watney). Not many authors could write a legitimately gripping and interesting story with one character who is all alone on a planet. Even without secondary characters to interact with, the book was still incredibly entertaining. Mark is the perfect character to carry a book mostly solo.
If you haven’t read The Martian, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Don’t shy away from if because it’s a science fiction book or because it’s so science driven. This book is a gripping space thriller with a tight, tense plot with a good dose of humor in all the right places.