Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

Book Title/Author: The Martian by Andy Weir
Publisher/Year: Crown, February 2014 (first published 2011)
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: N/A
Format: Softcover
Source: Owned

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A six-person crew lands on Mars and just a few days after their arrival, their mission is cut short due to a severe wind storm which forces them to leave.  During the emergency evacuation one of them is killed and the remaining crew members reluctantly haul leave their fallen comrade and make their return to Earth — but it turns out their crew-mate, Mark, was not actually dead.  Mark must now find a way to stay alive as long as possible and make contact with Earth to let them know he’s still alive.




I have heard nothing but praise for this book.  It has collected many awards: Goodreads Choice 2014 winner, Seiun Award for Best Novel (2015), John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015), ALA Alex Award (2015),Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2015) and Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2016).  However, I just don’t get the hype.  The story line had promise and I was intrigued, but the delivery was not to my liking.

The book takes place over the span of approx. 2 years.  The majority of the story is told as Mark’s first person log entries, then we hear NASA’s perspective once they find out that they have left one of their own on Mars.  In my opinion, NASA’s point-of-view (POV) was interesting only when they first found out he was left stranded there. After, I think that the book could have been solely told from Mark POV; nothing was added by switching perspectives.

I enjoyed Mark’s humour (for the most part); despite the grim circumstances, he always cracks a joke to make light of a dismal situation, but it starts to wear a bit thin after a while.  Once half way through the book I was getting flustered; in my opinion, there were two big misses and an annoyance that I could not look past:

  • Lack of psychological distress
  • Lack on concern or mention of family (maybe 2 pages MAX)
  • Annoyance: Repetitive math and formula tangents

Let me explain:

  1. Lack of psychological distress
    Mark’s humour is great, to a point: shows how naturally optimistic his character is but there is no real panic/ freak-out/ breakdown showing the affects of being isolated on a planet, eating the same thing every day (and in small rations I may add).  I understand that Mark needed to have his head in the game to strategically plan how he was going to stay alive, but come’on — he’s human!  Who wouldn’t have had a hangry freakout over the course of two years?!
  2. Lack on concern or mention of family (maybe 2 pages MAX)
    The second big miss for me was that after all this solitude and time to think, Mark reflects about his family very little.  There are maybe 2 cumulative pages that talk about his family.  You think if you were stranded, by yourself and planning ways to contact Earth and get home, that you’d think more about contacting your loved ones.

The Annoyance:
Now this was the part that I had the hardest time ignoring and moving past: Mark’s over-the-top, repetitive math/scientific plan tangents. Convenient that his area of experience lie within botany and engineering — he can MacGyver potatoes and feces into a sustainable source of nutrients, now lets read about how to accomplish this over and over and over and over again. I understand that the formulas, strategic thinking and explaining of his plans were important to the story to help emphasize the importance of rationing and how little resources Mark had to work with, but these explanations did not need to occur as much as they did (maybe cut it back by 1/2 — or even a third).

I hope the movie is better than the book; I will still go see the movie.


“I guess you could call it a “failure”, but I prefer the term “learning experience””


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