The Martian is so much more than your typical survival and adventure story – for one, it’s set on Mars, so you KNOW it’s on a whole new level. Told from the point of view of a botanist-engineer-astronaut with a great sense of humor (this guy uses “pirate-ninja” as a scientific unit) and amazing problem-solving skills, The Martian is gripping, nerve-wracking, and hilarious in the best of ways. And oh man, the amount of math and science in this one just makes me giddy.
When a severe sandstorm causes the Ares 3 crew’s mission on Mars to be cut short, Mark Watney, an astronaut who gets stabbed by a falling satellite antenna, is presumed dead and gets left behind. But through a strange sequence of events, Mark somehow survives, and with his background in mechanical engineering and botany, he attempts to live until NASA can find a way to save him.
Mark Watney was probably that class clown in your eighth grade class who, along the way, decided to smarten up and get dual degrees in mechanical engineering and botany and become an astronaut. He’s entertaining in the most immature way – like the “Oh, will you just grow up?” type of immature – but is actually pretty sensible and clear-headed given his situation.
Mark does A LOT of math and brainstorming during his days on Mars. He needs to find ways to make food and water among many other necessities, and Weir does an excellent job in making Mark’s thinking process crystal clear. The main narrative in The Martian is in a journal format, so it’s basically calculations galore on some days in order to figure out how much water an average human needs per day and how that translates to how much water the water reclaimer can hold, and so on and so forth. This type of narrative makes Mark’s situation more plausible, and I’m always glad to pick up some random interesting facts along the way.
I really like Mark’s attitude and creativity throughout his journey, but the other characters in The Martian are also fun to read about. They all have their little quirks, and I like this “no character left behind” approach because Weir truly makes an effort to showcase every character’s personality, no matter how minor that character is or how little page time they get.
And the plot is just incredible – the tension never ends! I tried putting the book down several times, but ended up finishing it in a day because I kept wondering what would happen next and kept going back to read it. When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did; when I thought things couldn’t get any better… they didn’t. The Martian is a truly nerve-wracking book to read in that sense, because throughout most of it I was basically gripping the pages going, “Please don’t die please don’t die please don’t die…” So every time Mark or others succeeded in doing something, I fist-pumped right along with them.
The only slight disappointment I had was with the ending. I expected more from it, because after all the unfortunate events that occurred, my mind didn’t want to rest until I had proof that Mark was really going to die from old age and not from some adventure on Mars. But at least it wasn’t a cliffhanger, so I’ll deal.
The Martian is a physically and emotionally stimulating adventure that induces both hope and despair. The unique setting in this story allowed for more creative and imaginative thinking from both the characters and from the readers, and the plot is fast-paced and full of surprises. If you like survival stories and science fiction, give The Martian a try!