This is a book review for The Martian, by Andy Weir. Realistic Sci-Fi Thriller.
There are no spoilers in this review.
My rating (1 to 5 stars): 5 stars!
Plot: A thriller of an astronaut that has been unknowingly left alive on Mars while his crew thinks him dead. He must use his wits and good sense of humor to stay alive long enough to figure out how to get home.
What got me interested into reading this book was not the premise, but rather the way this book has become so popular. I don’t normally read anything other than fantasy. It takes a lot for me to read something that is in the realm of realism or Sci-Fi, much less a thriller. This book taught me a lot on how to become successful as a writer, which I will explain in this review along with why I liked the book.
Andy Weir actually had this novel as a series available for free on his website. After getting positive feedback from fans he self-published it in 2011 as an eBook on the cheapest price available: 99 cents. In three short months he sold over 35,000 copies! Just goes to show, good books need a price tag on them. It’s that catch 22: if it’s free then the audience might think it’s not worth having. After all, if it’s good enough I’ll want to pay for it, right?
By 2014 Weir had finally settled with a literary agent and got hundreds of thousands of dollars for the deal. (Any self-publishing author’s dream.)
For Writers: What can you learn from Weir?
What made this book so successful? Well, just reading the first few chapters paints a very clear picture why. Weir did his research, and he did it without holding anything back. I looked into his background, and while he’s not a professional engineer or scientist, he’s something far beyond that. He’s someone that learns all the technical aspects of orbital mechanics and chemistry because he WANTS to. As an engineer myself, I can vouch that while we are trained with a basic understanding of physics, and even I loved the class I took on orbital trajectories, it takes a real passion to learn this stuff without a paycheck at the end of the road. But sometimes karma plays a hand, and Weir got the paycheck he deserved for filling his brain with such beautiful knowledge.
The amount of research alone is what makes the book such an amazing read. And what makes it an INTERESTING read is the marvelous sense of humor he has given the main character: Mark Watney. This book had me laughing from the first sentence. I can find comfort in this poor astronaut’s situation of being stranded on Mars with such a good sense of humor. I’m thrilled to see how Hollywood plays this out on the big screen.
Book Review Points:
Things I liked:
- Unique chapter structure.
Something very interesting about this novel’s structure is that it’s in a journal format for most of the book. I have no idea how they’re going to pull off a movie with this, but it’ll be interesting to see how they do! But when we are seeing Watney’s struggle, we get a real keen insight into his humor and how he handles things. Around page 49 I was quite startled to realize the story had shifted to a third person point of view, but for the purposes of storytelling I felt it was necessary.
- The sheer amount of realistic physics, math and chemical compositions that were accurate.
I can’t imagine how long it took to calculate all the math that went into this novel. I think this is really what made it so successful. It was not easy to do, not everyone can do it, and it makes for a fascinating and realistic reading experience. But I’ll admit, a few portions I skipped over because I’m an engineer in real life, too much like my day job! – At least for the most part Weir kept it interesting by including Watney’s sense of humor and putting things into Laymen’s terms. But he didn’t call the reader stupid, and explained everything down to the decimal place and realized we are capable of understanding the concepts if it is explained.
- Great sense of humor for the main character – Watney
This story would not have worked without the character’s rough sense of humor. It’s necessary for his survival, and it’s necessary for the reader to feel the entertainment value of otherwise dry material. Sure, someone getting stranded on Mars is exciting for all of five minutes, then we need something holding up the entertainment value other than worry for Watney. Speaking of which, I was terrified for Watney the whole time and it was well done!
Things I didn’t like:
- Some newbie author mistakes were apparent – Third Person PoV Scenes Mostly.
While I liked the third person addition, I could tell that Weir struggled with the prose. It was not as fluid as the journal entry portions. The passages are riddled with unnecessary dialogue tags, adverbs and general writing no-nos. For example, writing “Suddenly,” when just stating the action will be more “sudden” for the reader. But I’m not sure if the regular reader will pick up on this, as an author and a hobby editor I picked up on some of these things.
- A clue that wasn’t a clue.
On page 176 of the paperback version there’s a chapter break and I think Weir is leaving a cliff-hanger that hints at a future plot point. I don’t know if it’s intended that at this point the reader can figure out a guess to what may happen, but I had really no clue. I like to think myself fairly proficient to pick up on clues, but there wasn’t enough information to let me feel satisfied that I knew what was going on. This made me feel a little frustrated until it was revealed what this clue was all about (100 or so pages later). I would have liked it better if the clue was more obvious, or if it wasn’t pointed out at all. Just a personal quibble there.
This concludes the A.J. Flowers Book Review of The Martian, by Andy Weir!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.