The Martian

Book cover of an astronaut floating on a red planet.
Andy Weir
4
Saturday, Jun 27, 2015

The Martian follows an American Mars astronaut who is mistakenly left for dead on the red planet after an abnormally bad sandstorm causes NASA to scrub a month long mission after six days. The extremely long flight, preparation time and resources required by NASA for such a voyage means this astronaut’s life depends on some creative means of seriously extending his supplies until the next mission is sent—and that means lots of math!

Originally self-published, The Martian retains some hallmarks of a text that doesn’t conform to more traditional edits which is a nice change of pace in my view. Largely in a ship’s log format, it is still engaging (especially picking up the pace after chapter five.) “Yay!” is one of the most common entries into the log by the enthusiastic and in most ways luckier than normal Mark Watney. Watney is likeable and funny and serves as the only fully developed character in the story. Weir's writing has a mostly consistent style with a couple of (possibly slightly jarring but short term) leaps into a third person perspective to move the story forward.

Science fiction fans will very much enjoy this book and hard science fiction enthusiasts, in particular, will like the descriptions of the theory behind Watney’s highly successful translation of math, biology and physics into action. Scientists and readers whose interest lie more in the life sciences over more theoretical disciplines may be distracted by the truly uncanny good luck of how theory becomes reality over and over (usually without a hitch) as well as the odd but useful places where common things do not cooperate in order to create a one man against nature story. With a bit of suspended disbelief, however, The Martian is enjoyable and definitely worth reading for those with any interest in science fiction and stories of space exploration.

Written by Nancy D.M.

Fun fact: I sometimes teach courses in Philosophy.