- Paperback: 387 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (October 28, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553418025
- ISBN-13: 978-0553418026
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30,469 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Martian Paperback – October 28, 2014
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The main character, Watney, presumed dead, is accidentally left by his crew mates when an intense Martian dust storm forces them to abort their mission. What follows for part of the book is a logbook style narrative that describes in great technical detail Watney's efforts to extend his life until the next scheduled mission arrives in 4 years. After reading just the first 20% of the book (my Kindle has no page numbers) one can't help but be impressed by the author's depth of knowledge in this regard. In fact, the entire book is an astronaut's primer on extraterrestrial and deep space survival and rescue.
The Martian isn't without its typos and editorial glitches, and I'm not sure if this was a result of a bad Kindle conversion or just a shortsighted editor. For me, though, typos and editing issues paled in comparison to the snowballing storyline, which I gladly admit is not for everyone.
This is not a touchy-feely book about love, romance or relationships. There is no overpowering angle between characters. No good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats. There's no room for cliches. It's all very business like and scientific. So, if you're looking for Twilight in Space. Or Fifty Shades of Mars. Or Tom Hanks making himself a friend by drawing a face on a soccer ball, you'll probably want to skip this one. This book is simply about the mission, and the cold reality of working hard to turn a wrong into a right.
Another thing you won't find in this book is a lot of heartfelt reminiscing or reflection. There are no flashbacks of our main character fishing with Dad at the old water hole, or him riding his first bicycle without training wheels. This is a book about a guy with a keen intellect surviving on a hostile planet and doing so by making the most out of a given set of resources.
About a third of the way through the book, the author adds third person narratives from mission control and the Hermes space craft, the latter manned by the crew that left our hero behind -- and make no mistake, hero is the operative word. Again, we don't follow our mission control cast of characters back too their respective homes and meet their wives and husbands and get served up cliche insights into their innermost thoughts. Blech! I hate those stories! Which doesn't mean these characters are cookie cutter or superficial. On the contrary, I found the characters sufficiently individuated and interesting.
I highly recommend this book to people who are into reading hard sci-fi of the not-too-distant future, sci-fi without blasters and ray guns or 9' tall aliens that bleed acid. (Btw, I like those stories, too, but good ones are hard to find.)
Somebody did their homework on this one -- and that's what stands out above all else.
For some reason I thought the Matt Damon movie was coming out next year, but as soon as I heard it was THIS October, this rocketed to the top of my To Read pile (get it?).
I'm sure the movie will disappoint (they almost always do; that's why I usually try to watch a movie to enjoy it first and THEN read the book so I can enjoy both), but I don't care because the book was amazing. Loved every minute of it.
It's set in the near future after NASA has already sent two manned Ares missions to Mars. Mark Watney is part of Ares 3, but their mission gets cut short after less than a week thanks to a huge dust storm that forces them to abort and evacuate immediately. During their escape, a piece of antenna impales Mark directly through his bio-monitor and the entire crew assumes him dead. Luckily for Mark, the puncture wound wasn't too serious and his space suit never decompressed. Unluckily for Mark, the crew continued with their planned evac after not finding his body & seeing his flat bio-readings, taking all comm systems with them.
Watney is stuck on Mars with enough provisions to last six people about a month (or one person about six months). The next planned mission to Mars is 4 years away so Watney has to rely on his botany background to somehow grow food on the desolate red planet.
A series of unfortunate events occur, and the storytelling by Andy Weir is just fantastic. There's a short essay written by Weir in the end of the e-book that talks about how he chose to create problems from Watney's solutions. As I read the book, I kept expecting the worst to happen and was surprised when he didn't have a meteor land on top of him as he became a new crater! It was nice to read how Weir specifically avoided giving Watney the worst luck possible and tried to stick to more real life problems.
The Martian starts off as a simple first-person narrative in the form of Mark's journal entries. The first lines:
LOG ENTRY: SOL 6
I'm pretty much f***ed.
That's my considered opinion.
immediately drew me in. Watney is intelligent, charming, inventive, and hilarious! His diary entries often go day by day with a good mix of science, math, suspense and jokes. Another great journal entry [after Watney realizes everything he writes will be broadcast all over the world (if he's saved)] is, "Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)"
Without getting too spoilery, the novel does switch from first person journal entry narrative to third-person authorial narrative as we see how the guys at NASA & JPL deal with finding out Watney didn't die on Sol 6 and how his Ares 3 crewmates deal with the fact he's still alive. The story transitions from day to day journal entries to entries & narration that span weeks or months, but the suspense never really lets up. Watney almost dies like a dozen times but he's always cheerful/humble as he attempts to stay alive ("Mars and my stupidity keep trying to kill me"). Back on Earth, dozens of scientists band together to spend millions (if not billions) of dollars to save one man and eventually the whole planet watches their televisions as everything draws to an exciting conclusion.
Can't lie—near the end I got a little misty-eyed. And I laughed out loud several times throughout. I think Ridley Scott (director of Alien) is going to do great with this. Can't wait to see Matt Damon use his funny bone as Watney. The whole cast (Mara, Wiig, Chastain, Bean, Ejiofor, Daniels, Peña, Glover, et al) looks great. I really want to just read the book again since the movie isn't coming out for another month...