The Martian

Andy Weir
The Martian Cover

The Martian


I'd been curious about thsi book for awhile, but had hesitated reading it. I thought it was going to be a hard sci fi Robinson Crusoe story, which sounded really boring to me, And in many respects, I was correct, but, contrary to my expectations, the book was not all boring. The story is about Mark, an anstronaut who is left on Mars by his misssion crew when they mistaenly (but understandably) blieve that he has been killed. He then has to contstantly problem-solve his survival untl he can be rescued.

Contrary to my expectations, the story is not locked just on his solitary expeirence. Instead, the story switches between the astronaut's experience, the NASA empoyees and the members of his original mission crew who are trying to rescue him. This, of course, adds a number of characters to the story. The story deals very realistically (I imagine) not just with the basic logistics of obtaining food, air, water, and heat on Mars, but the chalenges of communicating among Mars, space, and earth. Having the story unfold in various locations means you not only get to see the challenges of Mark's rescue from multiple perspectives, it also adds moments of suspenseful dramatic irony when some characters (and thus the audience) know critical information that cannot (for various reasons) be conveyed to the others. It kept the story suspenseful and engaging througout.

I thought Weir did a good job with the science as well. I am not a science person, so I have no idea how accurate the science was. It always seemed plausible to me. And, to my profound relief, while the science behind almost every step in the survival/rescue process was reviewed, I thought Weir presented it succinctly and entertainingly. I did not feel like I was slogging through pages of mind-numbing scientific detail, and often found myself really enjoying the science discussions (even if I promptly forgot everything I ostensibly was supposed to learn from these passages.) An unexpected bonus of this science-driven plot is that I wasn't left scratching my head about why a character made a particular decision; since everything the characters did had some scientific explanation, and the science was always explained, the progression of the plot felt very plausible. The ending might have been slightly over the top, but by that point I had totally bought in, so I didn't mind.

The writing itself was fine. I'd expected, given the setup, for this book to be at times an existential slog through fear and despair. I mean, this guy was left for dead on Mars! But instead, I found it to be very Scalzi-ish - by which I mean, it was breezy and tongue-in-cheek, and all of the dialogue sounded like it was spoken by the same person with eh same sense of humor. Mark has not only an admirably tenacious will to live, he seems to be possesed of an almost superhuman patience and optimism, managing to make jokes throught his ordeal. I think the decision to have most of Mark's perspective be told through log entries was smart. I don't know how realistic the log entries were (who would really ever be able to provide such detailed and organized log entries?) But the idea becamse that these were not Mark's direct thoughts, but rather the thoughts that he chose to share with an audience. This means that while Mark can sometimes allude to tedium, despair or frustration, we don't expeirence it directly. This made Weir's decision to keep the overall tone light and hopeful much easier to swallow, and also made the book a more lighthearted than it could have been. I've read a lot of stuff labelled "hopepunk" this year; I don't The Martian has ever been labelled "hopepunk" but I found it to realy be in the same spirit - expressing a lot of hope not just in individuals' abilities to overcome challenges, but in humans' inclination to bridge divides (literal and figurative) to work together. This was like hopepunk that actually did its science homework.