Book Review: The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir

Book Review by Ashley Huang

In its essence, The Martian is a tale of survival. A tale of survival on an icy desert with no capability to sustain complex life, that is. When most people hear The Martian, they think of the 2015 film starring Matt Damon. What’s less known is that the film is actually a film adaptation of the 2011 novel by Andy Weir. To skim, The Martian tells of the tale of abandoned crewmate and astronaut Mark Watney from the Ares 3 mission. Stranded on Mars, and believing that the entire Earth thinks he’s dead, Watney must use his wits and problem-solving skills to survive on the hostile planet. Throughout The Martian, Watney encounters numerous setbacks and struggles, but he persists and continues to find a way around the problem. From figuring out how to make water, to tending a potato farm, to finally contacting NASA, Watney amazed me throughout the entire novel. In my opinion, The Martian is just 369 pages of one big, nerdy adventure that will guarantee to make anyone laugh, then cry, then cheer.

What I first noticed about The Martian was its humor. Thinking back to when I watched the movie a few years back, I recall laughing my guts out at how hilarious it was. Turns out the book is just as funny. The very first page brings you RIGHT into the action, and you’re immediately drawn into the story. I believe for those who likes fast-paced novels, The Martian is perfect for you!

A warning: This book is for nerds and geeks! I’d say an entire quarter of the book is spent explaining math and scientific concepts. Weir has considered his audience and indeed dumbed down most of the science, but nevertheless, there were always big words floating around and briefly explained concepts that, I can imagine, won’t make perfect sense to your general reader. For example, when Watney begins tending his successful potato farm, Weir explains the mechanism and logic behind how Watney derived the water for the plants, as well as the biological need for bacteria in the soil. With my general high school education, I didn’t have too much of a problem following along with the math. But towards the end of the book, during (spoiler alert) NASA’s attempt to rescue Watney, a lot of talk on astrophysics is utilized, and I had a harder time following along. Although the “astronaut-lingo” used in the novel gives off a realistic vibe, I didn’t know what half the jargon meant! But I suppose the realistic aspect of The Martian plays a big role into its appeal. Mark Watney didn’t get blasted by giant meteors or abducted by aliens; his problems were very real and very realistic: accidently wiring up/plugging in the wrong tools/cords, unknowingly releasing a massive cloud of (highly flammable) hydrogen into his shelter, and being faced with the looming threat of a sandstorm, just to name a few. I am thoroughly impressed by the wit of Weir, him being able to cook up such impeccably accurate scenarios and solutions!

Overall, I loved this book. I love Mark Watney, who is now my new role model. Hilarious and smart, he will surely charm many readers to come. The heavy science did not make me feel like I was in a science-fiction novel, rather, I felt like I was in a nonfiction novel! I will remember The Martian when, years from now, a manned mission to Mars finally becomes a reality.

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