28 November 2014
The Martian by Andy Weir
Andy Weir's The Martian is about Mark Watney, astronaut, botanist, Mr. Fix It, funny man, Martian. Stranded on Mars and thought dead, Watney struggles to survive in what I can say is the most unusual location I've ever read in a survival tale. Watney knows that the next mission to Mars doesn't land for four years. What he doesn't know is how he is supposed to survive that long. But he damn well is going to try.
Through it all, he maintains this beautiful and irreverent sense of humor that I truly enjoyed. His personality is the book. Without it, without his uniqueness, I think the book would have fell flat or at least been overly dry and mechanical. The dude is seriously funny. I laughed. Out loud. Many times.
His personality is really allowed to shine here as the story is primarily told through log entries Watney is recording, so it's Watney's voice and perspective being related to the reader for the most part. We also get the perspective from Earth, including quite the handful of people at NASA, and from Watney's crewmates from the Ares 3 mission, and while these characters are not as well developed or complex as Watney (for obvious reasons), they are each intense, interesting, and distinct.
Due to the circumstances of Watney's situation, quite a chunk of the book relates technical information. But it's presented clearly, and despite my humanities-based education, I felt a-ok listening to Watney talk science and engineering to me. Even in the middle of Watney's in-depth explanations of rocket fuel, oxygenators, water reclaimers, and well, growing potatoes, I was completely engaged with the story, heart-thumping as he tries to jury rig the machinery, the world, around him to stay alive. I was actually rooting for this completely fictional character; I worried, I cheered, I cried - well I got teary-eyed but forced it back as it's just totally ridiculous this crying nonsense.
If you have not yet read this one, you most definitely should, and if you have the chance, listen to it. I'm not an audiobook fan, but this was absolutely excellent. R.C. Bray did an amazing job voicing Watney. Perfect.