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Andy Weir’s The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, a member of the third manned mission to Mars.  During the course of this mission, a violent dust storm separates Watney from the rest of the crew.  Once they are no longer able to read his vital signs in their monitors, they presume him dead and decide to scrub the mission and leave the red planet in order to prevent further crew deaths.  Fortunately for Mark, he survived the dust storm, but now he’s the sole inhabitant of a dead planet, with only a limited amount of food, oxygen, and water, and no way to contact Earth.  Perhaps surviving the storm wasn’t so fortunate after all.

In his debut novel, Weir crafts an amazing storytelling example of ‘man vs. nature,’ as Watney must literally figure out how to provide everything for himself until the next mission to Mars in just over four years.  Obviously, we spend a tremendous amount of time with one single character here, but it never seems to become too much.  Weir gives Mark a wonderful sense of humor about the entire ordeal, as there were numerous times during reading where I actually laughed out loud.  That is not to say that we also don’t get a taste of Mark’s frustration, time and time again as things don’t go according to plan, but that’s what makes him such a great character, his humanity.  It’s that humanity that makes Mark a very easy character to rally behind.  He’s incredibly likable and you hope to see him make it through his ordeal not because he’s the good guy and that’s what you’re supposed to want, but because you actually want to see him survive.

There were two particular aspects about the book that I didn’t really care for.  The first is that it is very technical detail heavy, particularly in the earlier parts.  I understand that Mark is an astronaut, and that he probably would know all of these things and want to record them in order to replicate his processes, but at some points it seems to bog the story down a little bit.  Don’t get me wrong, it probably could have been much worse, but as it is, it’s still quite noticeable.  The other aspect that I took a little bit of issue with was the constant barrage of bad luck that befall Mark, his crew, and NASA in general.  With everything that goes wrong on the mission, you would think it was cursed.  I understand that it’s there to create drama, but at certain points, it actually comes off as a little forced.  Also, from time to time in the novel, NASA seems to be a tremendously careless organization, in both preparation and it’s treatment of certain individuals.

Overall, this novel is not perfect.  It has a few storytelling flaws, and some forced conventions, but a strong main character that you feel you can genuinely root for keep it really entertaining from start to finish.  I’m curious to see how the Matt Damon movie version of the story turns out later this fall.

The Verdict for The Martian:
4/5 – I can dig it.

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Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
Secret Wars Journal #4
Civil War #3 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Old Man Logan #4 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Where Monsters Dwell #4 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
X-Men ’92 #3 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 1: The Faust Act

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