Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is having a really bad day. Due to a chain of accidents the astronaut has been marooned on Mars. Believing he’s dead, his crew left for Earth. He has no way to communicate with either the spaceship or NASA. Not that it matters, because in less than sixty days, he’ll be out of food, water, and air. Yup, a really bad day. Unless he finds a way to survive on a barren planet for four years until the next Mars landing, he will be completely and totally screwed.  

What is Right With This Book?
When you think back on your list of top ten books, more than likely most, if not all, will have been read before you turned thirty. The books you loved in your formative years stick to you like hot fudge to hips and stay a happy memory for the rest of your life. You revisit them now and then like old friends and leave with a warm and happy feeling. (After thirty, you are no longer formative. Mostly you are sludge that can only think with a regular infusion of caffeine and/or sugar—at least for me.) I accepted I would like a lot of books, even love some, but none would ever again make my list of favorites.

I was wrong.

The Martian is not just an example of an excellent science fiction book, but one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. There…I’ve gone on record and said it. Why is it great? Several reasons. Not only did Weir create a totally engaging hero, the book has a gripping, story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will Mark find a food source? Water? A way to communicate with NASA? Can a rescue be mounted or is he doomed to a lonely death millions of miles from home?

The Martian is also surprisingly funny. Science fiction that is heavy on technical data rarely brings a chuckle. Often it is pretentious and stuffy, but Mark Watney faces impossible odds with a hysterical, self-deprecating sense of humor that made me laugh-out-loud.

Finally, science fiction books often suffer from poor characterization, particularly of females. Let’s face it, most are written by men. Women come across as little more than cardboard cutouts stuffed in a space suit. Not so, The Martian. Although Watney is alone on Mars the book’s point of view bounces from him to the mixed-gender crews of the spaceship and NASA. Female characters are fully formed and completely believable.

What’s Wrong With It?
Nothing. Seriously, not one single word. I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved a book so much from start to finish. The Martian outshines anything I ever read by Niven, Herbert, Clarke or any of the other supposed grand masters. Okay, if you put a gun to my head, I’ll admit I hate the cover. It’s ugly.

Why YOU Might Not Like It 
Some books, even well-written ones, should come with a warning. The Martian is one of them. You will hate this book, not even make it through the first chapter, if you don’t like hard science fiction. What is hard science fiction? It is a story that is heavy on the science and technical details.  I’m a dweeb, I admit it. I love the sciency stuff. If you can’t stand techno-talk, please don’t start this book. You’ll hate every single page, think I’m crazy for writing a glowing review, and make me cry very salty tears. Don’t bother picking it up.

I received a copy of The Martian for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

L. A. Kelley is a co-blogger at The Book Cove.  She writes stories with adventures, romance, humor, and a touch of sass. You can find her at

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