Book review: “The Martian” by Andy Weir (2012/2014)


The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a vivacious reader, but very rarely am I truly surprised by a book. I spend most of my time reading books to edit for others, ARCs and galleys to review, or graphic novels and comic books for pleasure and review. Like all writers and readers, I have my tastes. Science fiction, fantasy, and action-adventure are some of my favorite genres, but because I critically analyze these genres, and I read an immense of content, I don’t often stumble upon a novel that captivates my attention by providing a high-quality read with the excitement of a new creativity. “The Martian” by Andy Weird delivers. It is riveting and fresh. It is reminiscent of highbrow science fiction films, but layered with nuance that only a novel can achieve.

I received “The Martian” as a galley via Crown Publishing Group—which is an imprint of Random House—and I chose “The Martian” based solely on its synopsis:

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

It plucked at my sensibilities in an abstract and I immediately requested it. It arrived a scant week later. I was graced with an ornate hardcover, a beautiful smell, and a gorgeous slipcover with an astronaut caught in Martian sandstorm. The colors are vibrant— Orange and red with a hint of a white spacesuit caught in the throws of survival.

In a word: Exquisite

“The Martian” follows NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and a mechanical engineer, on the third manned mission to Mars, Ares 3. The novel begins with a bang. Readers are not privy to the mission setup, crew members, landing, and the circumstances to Watney’s predicament. Without ruining the suspense and discovery, Watney is presumed dead and left on Mars (when in fact he is not) and is forced to survive on Mars without any means of communication till interplanetary comms can be reestablished or the next Ares mission arrives…four-years in the future.

The rest of the novel focuses primarily on Watney and his survival. Through the use of his mechanical and botany background, Watney comes up with some pretty ingenious ways to prolong his rations, Oxygen, water, and transportation. The narrative is primarily composed of Watney leaving logs for himself (or as a testament to his journey and untimely death), so the technical side to his endeavors are filtered through his warm and charming personality, which lightens what could be an overly scientific text— Changing a potential negative into a strong positive. Weir deftly avoids a common issue among science fiction writers with clever character development and use of perception.

The rest of the novel proceeds like Alfonso Curacao’s Gravity. It is deeply individualistic, but symbolic. The writing isn’t stretched by only focusing on a single character, because as the novel goes on it begins to layer in Watney’s support team on Earth. It provides a wonderful message of hope due to the global cooperation that is required to bring home an astronaut stranded on another world. “The Martian” doesn’t pull any punches or use its arsenal before the tale is done, either. It continuously builds upon the tension set by Watney’s survival till its climax. Its ending is extremely satisfying— One of the best that I’ve read in years.

After reading Andy Weir’s “The Martian” I was awed by the level of detail, character development, and sheer quality of the narrative. It is one of the best science fiction written and should be considered along the likes of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. If you get a chance try and read “The Martian” before the Ridley Scott-Matt Damon film adaptation, which is set to release in November of 2015— It is sure to be hit.

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“Alien”


Alien” with Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto

Directed by Ridley Scott

Science Fiction will always have a special place in my heart, whether it be in literature or in film, I have always found certain gems to latch on to throughout the years.  Personally, I find Ridley Scott’s work to be phenomenal, and his classic sci-fi movies are some of the best in the business.

Unfortunately, certain Ridley staples like “Alien” and “Blade Runner” released before my birth, and I was never fully able to appreciate them on the big screen.  Luckily for me, Merlyn’s Sci-fi and Fantasy Shop, has decided to host a monthly film night featuring sci-fi movies at the Magic Lantern Theater in downtown Spokane.  To start the monthly event off Merlyn’s began with a showing of “Alien.”

I was ecstatic!  I haven’t seen “Alien” in years, and it was the perfect opportunity to brush up on the “Alien” franchise, before “Prometheus,” in a fairly intimate setting.

“Alien” was released in 1979 too much critical acclaim.  The film follows a mining ship’s return to Earth when suddenly they are awoken out of stasis and diverted to a nearby planetoid at the urging of a distress signal.  The film then progresses as the seven-member crew stumbles across a highly antagonistic and aggressive creature merely known as the Alien as they search a long abandoned alien ship.

The Magic Lantern Theater in Spokane, WA

I won’t go to in depth into the film’s castings and plot within this post, because honestly it is one that should be watched and not read about.  And, if it hasn’t been watched after 30+ years then odds are it is not your cup of tea to begin with.  That being said, I found Ridley Scott’s art direction and style to be superb, and unlike the films to follow, “Alien” was as much about mystery, intrigue, and the unknown as it was about the horror elements.  It had that right genre blend that so few films hit nowadays.

If you get a chance to see one of your favorite films on the big screen nab it up, because sadly art houses and small theaters are dying off and chances are it won’t come back again.

Did you enjoy Ridley Scott’s “Alien”?  Have you seen “Prometheus”?  What’s your favorite sci-fi film of all-time?