Reviewing Andy Weir’s The Martian

In the list of my favourite books, Andy Weir’s The Martain has gone right to the top. When NASA astronaut Mark Watney is thought to be dead and left stranded on Mars he has to science the shit out of the planet in order to survive. What follows is possibly the funniest science based survival book I have ever read.

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed.

Except in the book he says fucked.

And he is fucked. But he is also a trained engineer / botanist so gets to work making Mars more hospitable. He achieves this by using science and this book is science heavy (it’s been a while since I have had to think of Pascals and thermodynamics and Kelvins and I have never studied astrophysics so was initially completely lost in those bits) and it did take a few chapters for me to get into the swing of things. Thankfully Weir’s explanations are brilliant and you can follow what Watney is doing.

It also really helps that Watney is possibly the funniest narrator ever. I was giggling on the tube, at home, at work – wherever I was reading I was laughing. Sure I understood his life was in peril and he really wanted to survive but he was so funny as he was surviving.

Most of the book is narrated by Watney (in the form of entry logs into his computer) so it’s a good thing he is so brilliant and likeable. The rest of the action takes place on Earth where NASA are trying to save him, and on the (space) ship Hermes where Watney’s crew are currently on the long way back to Earth.  From all three perspectives we get the full story of what is going on and how the Watney rescue attempts are going.

I was hooked and gripped by the story. Now that it’s over I am really looking forward to the movie (out later this month) because if it does the book any justice then it is going to be extraordinary.

Like so many other recent reads, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Don’t be put off by the science because it is brilliant.

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