Has a better opening ever been written for a book? Not that I have read!
The Martian is the debut novel from author Andy Weir. It follows the fictional American astronaut, Mark Watney, when he is stranded alone on Mars after a storm forces his team to abandon their mission. Weir, with his background in computer science, researched orbital mechanics, astronomy, and the history of manned space travel to ensure it was as realistic as possible and based on existing technology.
The novel was originally self-published online in 2011 for free in serial format, one chapter at a time, following previous rebuffs by publishers. An Amazon Kindle version was subsequently made available and rose to the top of Amazon’s best-selling science-fiction list, which provided the attention necessary to get it published.
And man am I glad it was published. The Martian is HILARIOUS. Seriously, here are some quotes:
NASA: please watch your language, everything you type is being broadcast all over the world.
Watney: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)
There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies. So Mars is ‘international waters’. Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go… and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody gave me explicit permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the communication system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission. That makes me a pirate! A space pirate!
Watney: You fucking kidding me?
NASA: Admittedly they are very invasice modifications, but they have to be done”
Watney: You’re sending me into space in a convertible.
NASA: There will be canvas covering the holes. It will provide enough aerodynamics in Mars’s atmosphere.
Watney: So it’s a ragtop. Much better.
The Martian is technically a science fiction novel; however, in my opinion, the witty writing and adventure/thriller storyline make it appealing to even those with no interest in that genre. I am not a huge Sci-Fi fan, but I loved this book – I would definitely call it unputdownable, I always wanted to know what would happen to Watney next and how he would deal with it.
The plot is very character driven – it is very much about the mental and emotional state of Watney, as well as his former team members and NASA staff, throughout this 18 month-long ordeal, as well as Watney’s ability to improvise to survive.
My only complaint would be that it can be a little too technical at times when describing the equipment modifications and engineering he was performing (communications, IT, vehicle, hab/living structure, life support, etc.). I sometimes couldn’t follow it – but I could always follow the gist of the storyline surrounding the details.
I am very excited that this novel is being made into a movie – I think it will make a really great movie. It is not one of those novels that when you hear a movie is being made you think “WTF – that will make a terrible movie”. Even more exciting is the film adaptation will be directed by Ridley Scott and star Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean. The film is scheduled for release in November 2015.
As a final note I am going to share a quote that Commander Chris Hadfield made about the novel, because what better praise could there be from this book than a rave review from one of Canada’s most successful astronauts!
A book I just couldn’t put down! It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters, and fascinating technical accuracy. Reads like McGyver meets Mysterious Island.