I’m late to the game, but I finally had the chance to read “The Martian” by Andy Weir, and I loved it. From the opening lines of this 2011 science fiction tale written by a self-described space nerd, I was hooked and rocketing off into the world of the main character, Mark Watney.
Watney’s plight — stranded on Mars with no real hope of survival or rescue — was interesting, but it was the style of Weir’s writing that I loved. The prose were funny and light hearted, despite the subject matter being quite serious (just read the first lines of the book). There was some serious science packed into the fiction. All of the technology in the novel was modeled after real technology. The way Watney survived on Mars relied upon real science, which allowed him to, among other things, grow potatoes in the harsh conditions of the Red Planet. As an article from The Washington Post pointed out, Weir took extra steps to make his story realistic:
Weir developed a computer program to calculate all the orbital trajectories of the spacecraft in his story. He did his math meticulously, and “The Martian” is like an advertisement for the importance of STEM education. The story strives to be factually accurate, with one major exception: The thin atmosphere on Mars would make the novel’s early windstorm much less destructive, indeed rather feeble. Weir said he decided to overlook that fact purely for dramatic purposes.
Weir was able to make such a computer program because he was a computer programmer before he became a full-time author thanks to the success of his literary debut.
Of course, the science wasn’t the only thing relating to real life. In one interview, Weir said his main character’s personality was based upon his own. Watney was a smart aleck who took the lemons of what was basically a death sentence and made lemonade. He took everything in stride . He never gave up, even when he knew it was unlikely he would survive and had no viable communication method with Earth. He was the type of guy that would be fun to just hang out with. He was, and I can’t stress this enough, funny (seriously, read the first lines of the book). I read a lot, and I haven’t come across many characters that were this funny and yet this smart.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fun, science fiction story that is scientifically accurate. There is some adult language, but it fits the character so well that it doesn’t distract from the story. And, at the risk of giving away the ending, the story does conclude happily, so don’t skip this book if you are worried about it ending with a dead body somewhere out in the cosmos.
Besides how much I enjoyed it, how it came to be a bestseller is even more intriguing to me. Weir first wrote it as a serial on his blog. His readers enjoyed it, and he eventually put it up for sale on Amazon. That’s when things took off. He quickly got a book deal and a movie deal, and the rest, as they say, is history. He even has another book in the works.
As an author myself, I admit I’m a bit jealous of how his success came to be, but I’m not so jealous as to be bitter. If anything, I am inspired to keep writing and working on my craft. He gives me hope that one day I too can see success with my writing, even if it isn’t to the same level as he has seen.
Oh, and I mentioned a movie deal. I made myself wait to watch the movie until I had read the book, and I’m glad I did. The movie was just as good as the book, but it had to drop and condense parts for the sake of brevity on the big screen. Also, the ending of the book and movie is vastly different. The movie takes the story a step further than the book. It makes sense to give the movie more closure, but I thought the book ended at just the right spot.
Now, if you haven’t already, go read this book! You won’t be disappointed.