Analysis, inspiration, Reading, Reviews

Book Review: The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir is a fast and fun thriller about survival through hope, grit, and human ingenuity. It is packed with quite a bit of science, but give it a chance! The charm will win you over.

Teddy swiveled his chair and looked out the window to the sky beyond. Night was edging in. “What must it be like?” he pondered. “He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

Log Entry: Sol 61. How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Chances are you’ve already heard of The Martian. This book was originally self-published online for free, became insanely popular, and was eventually made into a movie starring Matt Damon. This novel is a crash course in Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, Astrophysics, and Material Science but it works, and I think it works for the general reader not, just subject matter experts, not even people who are necessarily interested in science – because it is fast paced; it is funny; it is charming.

Each crewman had their own laptop. So I have six at my disposal. Rather, I had six. I now have five. I thought a laptop would be fine outside. It’s just electronics, right? It’ll keep warm enough to operate in the short term, and it doesn’t need air for anything. It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to the surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book really just has phenomenal pacing throughout. A half page before I thought I might be getting tired of just potato farming on Mars from this one character’s perspective, (which I was afraid was pretty much was the whole book), it changes from being the single perspective of the guy stuck on Mars, to the NASA folks who find out that he’s there who are going to try to rescue him, to his crewmates who left him behind, and all of these folks, all of these different story lines, are just as riveting as the survival on Mars story.

What’s going to be a turn off for some readers is that The Martian can be macho in that very nerdy egotistical way that you might expect from NASA eggheads, but I would hope most readers would forgive it perhaps for realism, though the sexualization of one particular member of the crew (and there’s only two female crew members) did get a little cringy but was thankfully brief.

Now a lot of readers are not going to enjoy the sciency bits, the technical bits. There are numbers thrown at you quite often. Calculations as well, and for somebody like me (that’s my bread and butter) I was into those sections. Obviously that’s not going to be for everybody but it’s super easy to skim past without losing anything, but you shouldn’t skim past it, you should read it just to enjoy it, because it is written with such a great humorous and light-hearted tone and it’s hopeful.

I think hope is really the key thing that drives the character, and again lightens that tone of “Hey this is this life and death situation.” The book is not just this techie science fun; it is also this profound celebration of human ingenuity, grit, and intelligence. It’s humans being smart and there’s pride in that intelligence. And we should have pride in that intelligence because that is a beautiful aspect of our species. And this book celebrates that and that’s awesome; but I think the main reason that the Martian shines is because it has a fallible hero with a clear goal who takes actions to pursue his goal.

The author himself writes “I decided that each problem Mark faced had to be a plausible consequence of his situation or better yet an unintended consequence of his solution to a previous problem. I also really wanted Mark to be fallible,” and he is and it works.

The Martian is highly recommended.

You know another sci-fi book with a fast pace and a hopeful vibe – my book. You won’t find much hard science in it but I truly believe that if what you enjoyed about The Martian was the characters and light humor then you should consider checking out Crew of Exiles.


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