Finally there’s proof that I’m not the only one with Mars on the brain. Originally published as an ebook in 2009, Andy Weir’s The Martian was destined for broader horizons. Recently picked up by Crown Publishing (a subsidiary of Random House Publishing), it spent a handful of weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list earlier this year. Must be nice.
Weir’s first novel is all heart. And by heart, I mean comedy. Maybe that sets the wrong tone. Beginning again then. The book is all Watney. Mark Watney is the first astronaut (we all know there’s going to be one) to be stranded on Mars. And The Martian, first and foremost, is about Mark Watney. From the opening line, to the last page, Weir’s development of Watney through how he handles the obstacles that present themselves to him as he attempts to live on Mars acts as the life-giving oxygen necessary to sustaining his life on Mars.
The critics (really anything you’ll read about the book) frequently laud Weir’s attention to detail and eloquent grasp of the science behind traveling to and living on the red planet. But that’s not what kept my attention. (Like I have any way of verifying any of the story’s science anyhow.) What I do know is that I enjoy the feeling I get as bursts of unexpected air come out of my mouth or nose. And this book causes plenty of that. It’s a weird feeling, the feeling that accompanies laughing at unmoving text. But it is as enjoyable as any other feeling I can think of.
If you’re like me, you probably won’t rush out and buy the book based on a recommendation. But you might pick it up off the bookstore shelf and begin reading it. Here’s what you need to know as you begin to feel guilty for reading so long and hurriedly put the book back before anyone can claim that you must now purchase it because you’ve read too much of it: despite the opening chapters, the book is not just a diary. I started chapter’s four and five with a bit of a groan because while funny and interesting, it was a little too much Mark Watney. Then chapter six arrived in a much welcomed third person omniscient point of view. From there on out, it is a nice balance between the two.
In the end, it is a page-turner. It is funny. And its theme is hope. If you have any interest in one of those three things and are space-curious, read it.