There is just so much I want to say about this book. I have read a lot of good books, but very few have been as gripping as this one. All told, I read it in less than three days, which is a feat in and of itself considering I have a full-time job, a wife, and two children. What I am trying to say is, you need to read this book.
The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who becomes stranded on Mars after a massive dust storm forced his team to abort their 31 day Mars mission on day 6. A communications array had other plans and knocked Watney out of commission. His team, thinking him dead, had to abandon him on the Martian surface in order to have any chance of making it back to their shuttle, Hermes. This leads to a surprisingly realistic survival tale as Mark has to figure out how to survive on Mars without any contact with Earth.
The Martian is basically Cast Away in space, but astronaut Mark doesn’t even have an anthropomorphized volley-ball to talk to. Instead, Watney talks to us through a series of sometimes-serious-but-mostly-hilarious journal entries chronicling his quest for survival. Considering the dire circumstances, the book is surprisingly humorous. I found myself laughing while reading about how he got himself out of one catastrophe after another.
Weir does a great job making sure the catastrophes Watney faces are plausible, and not just some wildly unlikely occurrences. At the end of the book Weir provides insight into the story, and states:
I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want my hero to suffer one unlikely, disastrous coincidence after the next. I decided that each problem Mark faced had to be a plausible consequence of his situation-or better yet, an unintended consequence of his solution to a previous problem. He could suffer an equipment failure in machinery stretched beyond its intended use, but he couldn’t be struck by lightning and the have a meteor crash on him.
The plausibility is what adds to the ever building sense of dread as NASA attempts to launch a rescue mission. The science found throughout this book is pretty astounding. Weir is a computer programmer by trade, but the science of space travel is his hobby (a hobby which requires more smarts than most people’s professions). You can tell that each problem Watney faces, and each solution he comes up with, are painstakingly thought out, which just adds to the sense of realism. What this all amounts to is a surprisingly realistic sci-fi, survival story that will keep you on the edge of your seat to the last page.
The book itself was initially released chapter by chapter on Weir’s website. When it was completed his fans asked him to put it in Kindle format and self publish it so it would be easier to read. He complied and sold it for $.99 (the minimum price allowed for Amazon Kindle books). A short amount of time later he was a New York Times Bestselling author, a publisher bought the rights, and now there is a movie deal (the book and movie deal came within a weak of each other). The movie is slated to come out in November 2015 with Ridley Scott at the helm and Matt Damon as Mark Watney (perfect casting), and after reading the book I cannot wait for this movie to come out.
I highly encourage you to head to your local bookstore (or online retailer) and purchase this book. If you are in any way a fan of sci-fi, science, space exploration, or just a good, old-fashioned survival story, then this is the book for you. The book gets bonus points for having a terrific audio book as well. If you buy the Kindle version for $7.99 you can get the audio book for $2.99, and the voice actor is terrific. Have you read The Martian? If so, let us know what you think in the comments below!