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Book Review: The Martian – Andy Weir

After seeing it literally everywhere since the film came out, I decided to pick up The Martian by Andy Weir and give it a go. I didn’t really have much clue what it was about, other than the glimpse of the movie trailer I’d seen, and we all know how much we can trust those when it comes to books. I started it on the 4th January, it being the first book this year to count towards my Goodreads reading challenge, yesterday (11th Jan) I finished it. Having had 24 hours to process, I can now inform the world that, yes, I enjoyed it. This may not come as a shock to you, best selling books do not become best sellers if people don’t enjoy them, but sometimes you genuinely worry that they have been over-hyped and you’re going to be deeply disappointed when you actually get around to reading it.

OK, first things first,  a plot summery:

Mark Watney is a NASA astronaut on a 31 day mission on the surface of Mars. On the 6th day a super strong storm hits their base camp and the mission is aborted. On the way to the evacuation site, Mark is hit by flying debris and knocked unconscious. Presuming him dead and unable to find his body in the sandstorm, Mark’s crewmates leave without him. When he wakes up, he finds he is alone on Mars with no communications and no way of getting home. Fortunately, Mark is a mechanical engineer, botanical genius and genuinely upbeat person.

I really did enjoy this book. 80% of it is mission logs from Mark’s perspective and the other 20% is NASA meetings. A very large part is science talk. If you can get through the science talk, this is a very entertaining read. I am not a scientist, I cannot claim to understand most of what was said, but it’s all spelled out, so I just went with it. If any of the maths was wrong, I didn’t know. Mr Weir could have told me he was able to make food out of thin air and then followed with some complicated maths, I would have believed him. I’m not sure it’s 100% scientifically accurate, but hey, it’s a book! It’s fiction. I can let him off for that.

Despite the heavy psychological subject of the book, being the only person on an entire planet will have its mentally scarring issues, the humour is infectious and I laughed in the face of adversity right along with Mark. And then I cried with him too. Without to much of a spoiler, the ending is incredibly powerful and worthy of the any film. No doubt the current adaptation has done it justice, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet.

Mark’s ability to creatively think his way out of any problem works for a really interesting time and I genuinely couldn’t wait to see how he got out of his latest scrape, and he had a few. One minor issue I had was that the book kind of reads like a series of horrific ‘oh god, how is he going to survive this’ events quickly followed by some science talk and a quick fix, but it’s all so fast paced it works, and to be fair, if you were stuck on Mars alone, your life would probably we a series of horrific events too.

Overall this is a very enjoyable book filled with twists and turns and more 70’s references than you’ll know what to do with.

****     4/5

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