Update Note August 2016: When I wrote this blog the Martian was by a minor publisher. Many people downloaded the book after the blog, which boosted it up Amazon charts. Soon after it was taken off as it was due to be republished with a bigger publisher and to become a film.
That film became a Hollywood blockbuster with Matt Damon and the book is now a big deal. I like to think I had a little role to play in that for publicising the book. I’m aware that’s almost certainly not true, but I haven’t checked it out properly, as, er, well, I like to think it!
I went to bed far too late last night. The fault rests with a book on my Kindle called The Martian. I had 20% left to read (70 pages in old money) and found myself unable to leave the story. I curled on the sofa in the dark so engrossed with the castaway astronaut on Mars that when Mrs MSE turned the light on, I jumped.
Reading it gave me so much pleasure I felt the least I could do was to write a quick book review. As always, I’m far more into the story than the literature.
The best way to sum up Andy Weir’s The Martian e-book is with this quote (forgive the language). Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler.
So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.
This book is syfy in its purest sense, but while it may be science, it didn’t feel like fiction. It’s based in what feels like our world, just a wee bit in the future.
This morning, I’m finding it hard to remember that the whole thing wasn’t real. It’s the diary of a stranded Robinson Crusoe, a botanist-cum-engineer fighting for survival having been left thought dead on the red planet after an exploratory trip by NASA.
The planet’s atmosphere seems malevolently hostile, the inability to create food actively thwarts Mark Watney as he strives for survival. Yet Watney is not without weapons. The most potent are an engineering degree and a knowledge of science.
This is a book Dr Sheldon Cooper would be proud of – a novelised puzzle, at each turn you question how he’ll manage to bypass the latest setback. Yet it’s couched within a gripping page-turner, with a strong character you quickly learn to care about.
If you’re short of something to read, I recommend it. And if you’re not sure, download the sample. The book has a fast start, so you’ll know pretty quickly whether it’s worth the 77p!
Let me know what you think if you do.
Related past blogs:
- A Dragon In the Napoleonic Wars
- Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrel – a book list update
- My top 10 summer reads
- Crime and ferocious murder – a great way to learn about the reformation