Friday, September 19, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir (Review)

Adult, Science Fiction, Thriller
Publication.Date  February 11th 2014
Published By:  Crown
AuthorAndy Weir

The Martian on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
“I can't wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”
“If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Martian vampires, I'll have to risk it.”
“It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”
“Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.”
"What do you know? I’m in command”
“[11:49] JPL: What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We’re assuming the other side is identical. You’re cleared to start drilling. [12:07] Watney: That’s what she said. [12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?”
“Me: “This is obviously a clog. How about I take it apart and check the internal tubing?” NASA: (after five hours of deliberation) “No. You’ll fuck it up and die.” So I took it apart.”
“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 took me by surprise. If I am honest, I have yo say I was ready to give up on this book after 50 pages. It's not that I didn't find it interesting enough, or well written, or even scientifically accurate, because it really was all these things. I just found it hard to connect with the lead character. 

    Mark Watney was not a character I immediately connected with. In fact, it took me long time to even get to the point when I would tolerate him, what with all his jokes and jackass behavior. I didn't understand how a person left to die alone on a different planet could be so lighthearted, cheerful and in the mood for random jokes. It wasn't until I finally realized, that, had he been any more serious or depressing, I would have hated his guts even more. Mark made the best out of the situation he found himself in, and I learned to appreciate his optimism and zest for life. His brave attitude was truly admirable. He was a clever problem-solver, and in situations where most of us would probably break down and cry, he looked for solutions and ways to troubleshoot. And his jokes and surprisingly positive attitude? Well, I realize now that without it, the whole novel would have been pointless, he might've as well just shoot himself in the head in the first chapter. 

     By the end of the book, I was a huge fan of Mark Watney and his biting sense of humor. He is such a fantastic, complex, intelligent and sharp character, I actually miss his inappropriate remarks and nerdy observations. He grew on me, like no other character ever did, and I wish I knew someone like Watney in real life. 

     The concept behind this novel is really rather simple, and really kind of brilliant in its simplicity. Can you even imagine how incredibly terrifying it would be to be left behind, all alone, on a planet thousands of miles away from home? Knowing that you don't have enough supplies to last anywhere long enough for the rescue mission to come and save you? Not even having any means of communicating to others that you're alive? Boy, I would probably give up and die on the spot the moment I'd realize the extent of just how screwed I was. 

    The premise was blood chilling in both the concept and its execution. Mark is a fighter, but Mars itself is definitely a worthy opponent. Everything that can go wrong, does, and it's a never ending battle against time and Mars' deadly atmosphere. The sense of urgency and danger is omnipresent, almost palpable and claustrophobic, to the point that you're having trouble breathing yourself while reading about Mark running out of oxygen, or you suddenly feel the urge to stock up on food supplies, while reading about Mark's desperate attempts at growing potatoes on Mars (and really, just how cool is that?). 

     I loved how scientifically accurate this book was. All the scientific detail made this story very believable, and therefore that much more terrifying. The many bits and pieces of information and data, endless calculations and predictions, detailed descriptions, etc.. It all made for an interesting read. And even though it was definitely a bit heavy on the scientific stuff, it was never boring or disconnected. Andy did a great job of balancing the intense plot line with the scientific information, creating a story that while mentally stimulating, complex and challenging, was also very entertaining and emotionally engaging. And Mark's awesomely bad-ass character played a vital role in making this a very accessible and enjoyable read.

     I would recommend this book to all science fiction fans, especially those who appreciate a great, thrilling story with a carefully fleshed out scientific background. You won't be disappointed.

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