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BOOK REVIEW: The Martian by Andy Weir

| 26 July 2014 | 1 Reply

BOOK REVIEW:  The Martian by Andy Weir
Random House
March 2014, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell


the martian


I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed.



I didn’t know it before, but this book is something the astronaut wannabe inside me has been waiting her whole life for.

When I was a kid, my dad and I would go out and look at the stars through his telescope, or just stare up at the sky as a whole and watch for satellites and shooting stars.

Confession time: I still do it. 

I have no doubt I could be an astronaut. 

If I didn’t like sleep and comfort so much, and if I had more drive when I was younger.

There’s something about space that has always amazed me and terrified me at the same time. Made me feel like somewhere out there is my destiny, and at the same time made me feel so small and insignificant.


Got that in your mind? Good. Now go and read this book.

I’m not foolish enough to think this book is for everyone. Some people will be bored by the details, some people (I’m sure) will think there isn’t enough detail.

This book was the third bowl of porridge for me; just right.


The Plot: 

Mark Watney was the lowest ranking in a crew of six astronauts meant to spend 31 days collecting samples on Mars. On the sixth day, the mother of all storms showed up and, rather than have the roof cave in on a planet with no life-supporting atmosphere, they decided to evacuate. Watney, our POV character, was hit and impaled by a big antenna on his way to the MAV(Mars Ascent Vehicle), and the others left without him, believing him already dead. 

Then he woke up. 


The only person on the entire planet.

There’s no way to communicate with anyone and let them know he’s alive, since the method for communicating with Earth was on the MAV his crew escaped on.

It’s not completely hopeless. His was the third mission of five planned Mars Missions. The prep for the fourth mission was already underway when they landed on Mars.
He just has to figure out how to stay alive for the four years in between. On enough food to get one man through about 300 days. In a habitat designed to last 31 days.


I Loved: 

The style of writing, and Mark’s character. 

The book opens on a log entry, and the first five chapters(48 pages, give or take), are told in log form.
By the end of the fifth chapter I was so engrossed in this story, and so separate from the real world, that I actually found myself believing I was reading the logs of someone who was, or had been stuck on Mars.
There were no aliens.

The detail.

If I ever get stuck on Mars, in a habitat that will keep me breathing, I will know how to make soil for plants to grow in. Provided I have some sort of plant to grow.
I hadn’t thought about it to that depth before, but the knowledge of how to introduce much needed bacteria into the process was fascinating.

Mark’s sense of humour.

It took a bit to get used to the style of writing, but once I did I felt like I could easily be friends with Mark. He’d do well in Australia with his sense of humour.  And at times he made me laugh out loud, or grin stupidly. In public.


Didn’t love, but understood: 

The shifts in perspective.

As much as I loved the first five chapters, I found the sixth chapter jarring.
Suddenly we weren’t reading Mark’s logs, but were watching the people of NASA as they dealt with the loss of one of their people.

I understand why it was done, I think it would have likely been a harder book to be engrossed in if it was ONLY Watney’s POV for the whole 369 pages, but it did shake me out of the story a bit.

A bit of Dues ex Machina.

Shit hit the fan, I can understand that these things weren’t meant to last as long as they did, and they weren’t being used in their optimal conditions, but I felt like it was one thing after the other. Once again, I get it. He’s stuck a LONG way from home, where each little mess up could mean death, and he’s the only one watching his back. Shit happens.

Now, I don’t know if Watney is just WAY more determined and clever than I am (hey, put me in a bind, and I WILL work a way out, but I don’t know that I would think of a lot of the things he did), or if it was just a case of “we need to work out a way for Mark to survive this disaster, and I can’t think of a better way, so it’ll have to be this”, but it seemed like he overcame a lot of the issues way too easily.

Sometimes, at work, I have to do displays to advertise books. I will often come up with an idea, and then something happens that makes it not work (can’t get the materials, another store did a VERY similar design, the boss doesn’t like my suggestion), but the second idea is ALWAYS better than the first. Sometimes this did happen in the book, but more often it was a case of getting it right the first time, or trying the same thing again until it was successful. Once again, this is a little hard to tell, reading just his logs, so it could be that more time has passed than it feels like for us while reading it.

I didn’t feel like this detracted from the book much, if at all. It was still an amazing ride.



I’ll definitely be snapping up any other books by the same author, and recommend this for all the aspiring space explorers out there.



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