Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir is a science fiction novel set in the not-too-distant future. The book's protagonist, Mark Watney, is a botanist and mechanical engineer who is extremely intelligent and always wisecracking. In other words, he's the kind of guy I'm pretty sure I could hang out with if he was a real person... except for the pesky little issue of me being here and Mark being stranded on Mars.

There are some people who just love their hard sci-fi. I'm not one of them. I tend to fall in the Stephen King camp of appreciating the story a lot more than the technical details. However, since the majority of the story is told in first person from Mark's point of view, we get all of the science from the mouth of a very likable character. It makes the chemistry digestible, as if you were learning this stuff from your best friend rather than from a professor's monotone lecture.

I recall Mark mentioning several times that he would spare me the science, and even though the character makes the subject more palatable, I still remember thinking, "Man, I wish you would save me a little more of it!" Likable narrator or not, there is a lot of technical mumbo jumbo in The Martian that I felt could have been condensed. The botany didn't bother me at all, probably because my sense of humor got stuck somewhere around age twelve, but the chemistry was a little much at times. Even though it helps explain exactly how the protagonist was managing to survive, if you don't find the protagonist's explanations funny, you might find yourself bogged down in chemistry rather than enjoying the story itself.

I'm sure there is a demographic out there, however, that loves all the technical detail that Andy Weir included in The Martian. I'm certainly not a scientist myself, so I don't know whether he actually knows his stuff or not, but it certainly sounds like it... and since the plot revolves around improvising ways to survive in a harsh environment without the necessary supplies, some might even say that the technical details are necessary.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. I may sound overly critical of the abundance of science in this review, but the story underneath all the jargon is excellent. Even if you think the science is a slog, it is presented by a character whose commentary is usually amusing and sometimes downright hilarious. If you like science fiction at all - even if hard sci-fi isn't normally your thing - I highly recommend this book.

Note: Special thanks to for providing me a free review copy of the Martian.
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