Most science fiction novels I read are usually pretty serious. I guess the end of the world or a galactic battle doesn’t lend itself to comedy. Not so with The Martian by Andy Weir. I found myself laughing out loud at astronaut Mark Watney’s log during his unexpected stay on Mars.
In the the near future, Mark is inadvertently stranded on Mars after a dust storm forces his crew to abandon their mission. His crew left him for dead as they traveled the long journey back to Earth. With no way to communicate with Earth, Mark uses his botany and engineering background to survive on Mars. He figures out how to make dirt and more water to grow potatoes (a lot of potatoes) in anticipation of his NASA rations running out. He’s a smart guy.
Soon, the folks at NASA discover that Mark is still alive on Mars and it becomes a race to rescue him before he runs out of food. The rest of the novel alternates between Mark’s survival skills on Mars and NASA’s public relations nightmare (dead astronaut is really alive and stranded on Mars!) and its seemingly impossible rescue mission.
First of all, if you’re not a regular science fiction reader, don’t let the science in the novel throw you off. I don’t know a whole lot about creating hydrogen and making them bond with oxygen to create water, but details like that make space travel to Mars feel more realistic for me. While Mark makes plenty of jokes about his attempts to stay alive on Mars for as long as possible, as readers, we’re aware that a mistake could sabotage his survival or just kill him outright. I was rooting for Mark throughout the novel.
My favorite jokes were his references to OUR pop culture. Okay, maybe pop culture for us thirty- and forty-somethings. He has more free time on Mars than he expects so he finds his crewmates’ music, books and television shows to stay entertained. His quips about his crewmates’ selection were witty and spot on. I won’t spoil the novel’s outcome, but I did stay up late to finish the last 100 pages or so because I wanted Mark Watney to live, dammit! Does he? You’ll have to read to find out.
Weir originally self-published The Martian before it was picked up by Crown Publishing. I’m glad to see this trend. While I had an e-galley of the book, making it available in print will introduce Weir to a wider audience. I will definitely plan to read Weir’s other writings.
One more thing: If I ever wanted to travel to Mars, I’d take Mark Watney with me. He’s wicked smart and entertaining.
The Martian is available for pre-order and will be released February 11. Definitely pre-order this book! You won’t regret it.
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