I know, I’m so late to this space party. I finally read The Martian as a buddy read with my fellow-librarian friend as part of the 2019 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. Needless to say we were both impressed. I’ve since ordered Weir’s Artemis on Audible!
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue 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 kill 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. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
I have at least 50 Goodreads messages with my friend about my thoughts of The Martian, and I’ll spare you the very, very specific points we talked about.
The book starts off with a bang and I knew it was going to be hard to stick with our one chapter per day guidelines. Mark Watney and his crew-mates take the small risk of collecting soil samples from the surface of Mars knowing there is a dust storm brewing. The storm quickly picks up in intensity, and the crew is told to return to their ship. No biggie, right?
Wrong! Watney was injured and the crew can’t see him in the dust storm. They’re forced to abandon him, seeing as they would be stranded on Mars if they didn’t and his suit is reporting a deadly loss of life support.
Well, surprise! Watney isn’t dead and he’s stranded on Mars with no way to communicate back to Earth that he’s alive and way too little food to survive for long. His only hope is the next Mars mission, scheduled to arrive in three years.
The book starts off with a lot of action and what follows is a lot of humor, sarcasm, high-stakes action, and an intense survival story.
If I wrote this like a “normal” review it would be way too ramble-y, so bullet points it is!
What I Really Liked
- Mark Watney: Watney is probably one of my favorite main characters I’ve read in a long time. His sense of humor and constant use of sarcasm is 100% me, so I connected with him on that level. His thought processes can be very comical and seemingly random: “If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Martian vampires, I’ll have to risk it.” In this instance, Mark needed wood to get a spark, and the only wood he had was his crew-mate’s cross. I liked how he faced the very real possibility of not surviving in both a seriously dedicated and a humorous fashion, both loving NASA for what they provided and also giving them a hard time for their expensive and glorified equipment.
- Understandable science: Watney’s personality helped get me into the very science-specific parts of the book. When he would get into detailed descriptions of his technology or calculations, his easy-going personality made it easier for me to digest the information and (mostly) understand it. I sometimes had to take those parts a bit slower to really digest it and get into the descriptions, but the extra time spent on those parts had a lot of payoff.
- Not everything went right: This book was realistic in that not every thing Watney tried went exactly as he planned. In fact, most of what he tried resulted in partial success and partial failure. This kept us on our toes wondering if he’ll survive and it helped keep the pace of the book interesting, even during some of the less action-packed chapters. I think this is important in any book, but especially science fiction. We already need to wrap our heads around living on Mars, we can’t also believe that everything would go exactly as planned there. Weir did a great job grounding the book in a suspenseful reality with some creative liberties thrown in.
- **This point is slightly spoiler-y, so skip this bullet if you don’t want to know!**The Earth chapters: I told the friend I was buddy reading with that I wanted Earth chapters or chapters from the crew’s POV, and I’m so happy that they actually existed! It was sometimes painful knowing both sides of the story, but it added to the thrilling aspects of the book. It was also nice to switch up the format of the chapters with more possibility for dialogue and a change of setting.
Things I Didn’t Like
- Not enough of the crew-mates: Although we learn a bit about Watney’s crew from his thoughts and what they left in the HAB, I would have loved more in-depth chapters from their POV. The little bit we got was really interesting but I wish there was more. I loved what I learned of their characters and wanted to see more banter between them. Honestly, I don’t know how this would fit into the book, but I will be watching the movie soon so hopefully that has more about the crew and will give me that extra bit I wanted.
- Some filler chapters: Some of the chapters seemed more like filler and didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. There were only two or three chapters like this, but when you’re only reading one chapter a day it seems more like a let down than it would if you were reading multiple chapters per day.
As you can see, the things I liked about this book far outweigh the things I didn’t like. I don’t think the dislikes were strong enough to knock the book down a star, so it remains at 5 stars. I might post a review of the movie to go along with this review, so keep your eyes peeled for that! I would really recommend reading this book if you haven’t yet, even if you aren’t a fan of science fiction. Watney is funny, the plot is interesting, and it has a companion movie (with Sebastian Stan in it, I might add)! Let me know what you think of the book and/or movie in the comments.