The Martian

Andy Weir
The Martian Cover

The Martian


This was a wonderful combination of hard science, science fiction and humor. Other than John Scalzi, I can't think of any science fiction author who does as good a job with humor. Listening to this as an audio book made the humor that much more enjoyable. The performer put just the right amount of flippancy into his voice as he read the daily log entries of the protagonist, an astronaut who is just trying to get home. Some of the funny parts that made me laugh out loud included the ode to duct tape: "Yes of course duct tape works in a near vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped." Also the protagonist's listing of all the songs on the ipod that had something to do with his situation (Life on Mars, Rocket Man , Alone Again-Naturally , and Stayin' Alive).

But the author wasn't all about the laughs. There were plenty of very interesting science sections, like when the protagonist described how he synthesized water, or prepared the soil to grow potatoes, or used a pack of plutonium to provide heat without irradiating himself. All these sections were clearly very well researched, but were written in a way that was very accessible and understandable. Many parts reminded me strongly of the book "Apollo: The Race to the Moon" by Charles Murray, particularly the parts describing how the team back at NASA would troubleshoot the challenges being encountered on the mission. By including the technicians back on Earth and their troubleshooting, the author avoided the mistake that many fiction novels make--focusing exclusively on the astronauts, ignoring the vital role played by the hundreds of experts at Mission Control, without whom the space flights would be impossible.

Still, I thought the author's decision to tell most of the story from the first person perspective of Mark Watney, the stranded astronaut, was brilliant. The few chapters that moved away from Mars and told what was happening on Earth spoiled some of the magic, breaking the sense of isolation I felt when the only person's voice was Mark Watney's. That magic was so powerful that I actually got a bit verklempt a couple of times. If you are fascinated by real space flight and like to think about things like the logistics of what it would really take to get a man on Mars, you should definitely read this book. Best book about Mars I have read yet.