The Martian

By Andy Weir

Rating: 4 stars

Through an unlikely series of events, astronaut Mark Watney, a member of the third manned mission to Mars, is abandoned alone, but alive, when his crew evacuates. He has to figure out how to stay alive, and how to contact Earth, long enough for any hope of rescue.

The first thing that struck me about this book is how funny it was. This is a very serious situation, and some authors might have played it such, but Weir gives Watney an upbeat, optimistic voice that doesn’t let him get down, even when the odds are utterly against him. He’s an extremely likeable protagonist, and you can’t complain that he’s uber-competent because he’s a bloomin’ astronaut. If you can’t expect an astronaut to be just as competent at growing potatoes from scratch as rewiring the local oxygen reclaimer then who can you ask?

The whole book is incredibly readable. The writing is kept at a nice level and although the scientific explanations come thick and fast, they never break the flow of the book. And, peering back through to my GCSE and A-level chemistry and physics respectively, it seems that the major science is correct; at least nothing jumped out at my level of understanding as being an utter howler. That’s very impressive. The whole book is very impressive and the only reason it didn’t get 5 stars is because of the Taiyang Shen plotline, which sort of fizzled out. This confused me. Why was there only one possible booster that could do what they needed? Why couldn’t a commercial launch from a Soyuz or Arianne be used? And even if the Taiyang Shen was required, I don’t get the conviction that only booster of that design would ever be built. After spending so much money on the design of a booster, who the hell only uses it once?? Surely you want to build and use as many as you can to get maximum use from the design. And even if the Chinese wouldn’t build another, then why couldn’t the original probe be carried on a future American/Soyuz/Arianne booster. This whole plotline fizzled out for me.

But apart from that, I loved this book from beginning to end. Highly readable, very exciting and with a really likeable protagonist to get behind. Definitely worth reading just to remind yourself how good the people we send into space, and the teams backing them up here on Earth, are.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785031137
Publisher: Del Rey
Year of publication: 2012

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