The Martian by Andy Weir
2014, Crown Publishers
Review Summary: One of the best novels I’ve read for quite some time. Gripping and realistic, a modern spin on the castaway theme, where everyone knows where the stranded person is – but just can’t get to him.
One of the best novels I’ve read for quite some time. Gripping and realistic, a modern spin on the castaway theme, where everyone knows where the stranded person is – but just can’t get to him.
The characters are very realistic, and individually interesting even with just brief appearances in the novel. The main character was done exceptionally well in this novel, drawn as an extremely competent smart alec who still makes (believable) mistakes – and is just lucky enough to live through them, and smart enough to figure out what went wrong so that he can adjust his processes accordingly to keep from making the same mistake twice. His mixture of respect and irreverence for NASA’s brilliant resources and safeguards and nanny mentality is pulled off perfectly.
The surface of the plot is straightforward enough – how does one handle a stranded astronaut on Mars? – yet the developments of the story keep it fast paced and entertaining from start to finish, skillfully spanning the days and months – over a year of time – spent over the course of the novel without dragging even once, and with a couple of surprising yet realistic plot twists to cast the heroes on yet another path toward their end goal.
Thematically, I really like how the author pulled this off without there being any particular “bad guy” involved at any point throughout the novel. From the lowest grunt to the highest admin, each person involved – while maybe not an exemplary human being – were fully human, and just trying their best to make the safest and most humane decisions possible from their particular worldviews and areas of responsibilities. I think the author’s touching on the scope and cost of the aid gathered, and the mentality of those making the efforts and the sacrifices to pull off the rescue, was also especially well-done. At our best, humans want to help other human beings, and can go to great lengths to do so.
A thoroughly enjoyable story, and one I’m glad to have been tipped off to by my “personal librarians”. Thank you!
P.S. The one thing that did bother me about the novel was that the author didn’t include anything about dealing with the toxic level of perchlorates in the Martian environment. This really didn’t have much effect on my enjoyment of the story if only because the author established the main character’s abilities so firmly that I’m confident he would have found a way to deal with that little problem as well had it been included!