Synopsis according to Goodreads:
“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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?“
Like most of the rest of the Western world, I read The Martian after seeing the trailer for the film. I have a very strict read-the-book-first policy, when something is being adapted. And the fact that my entire family read and loved this book….well, I can’t say I was exactly peer-pressured into it. But I was shamed for being the last one read it.
I think it’s a good story, but I did have some issues with it. So I’ll parse those out and let you decide:
First off, this is heavy-science science fiction. If you like science, if you like astronomy, if you ever wanted to be an astronaut, if you’re a whatever-engineer, you’re gonna love it. There’s a lot of science. Some went over my head, but it’s well explained for us sheep. Also, my dad (a nuclear engineer) wants you to know that he checked ALL OF THE MATH IN THIS BOOK and it’s correct. It scored a B+ from frakking NASA for it’s accuracy to the science.
I did find Watney’s narrative at times extremely annoying. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, which saved this from being very dry and boring. But nobody keeps a journal and starts a sentence with “Remember,” a billion times. Nobody. If you want to remind your audience, Weir, just present the problem as HIS recollection- not as him prompting us to remember it. This is a log, not a classroom.
Ultimately, this story is about hope. The human instinct to survive, and to help others, are the kernel of the story. I never felt kinship with Watney as a character, and I never really felt like his life was in danger from the author (I’m inured to character sacrifice, guys), but I did want to see him rescued.
The ending was actually the best it could have been. And apart from that, Watney’s sense of humor is the best thing going for the book, story-wise. The accurate science (which is kind of mind-blowing if you think about it) was more of a good seasoning to this man-alone survival tale.
I definitely recommend for the three people out there who haven’t yet read it (seriously, everybody I know has!), especially if they’re science fiction fans and/or survival/human-ingenuity-story fans.