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Read of the Week: The Martian

If you are turned off by The Martian because you have heard it has science-fiction tendencies, I urge you to reconsider.

The Martian by Andy Weir is an amazing novel; I could not put it down and already have plans to re-read it. The story is pretty simple: Mark Watney, astronaut, botanist, and mechanical engineer, has been accidentally stranded on Mars and presumed dead. The story centers on Mark’s survival experience and, later, on those at NASA once they realize Mark is alive. As I said, relatively simplistic, so it is really in the telling that this novel shines. And it does; shine, that is.

The main character, Mark Watney, is the novel’s driving force. This is not a story about an astronaut lost in space along the lines of Gravity (2013); rather, this is The Truman Show (1998) meets Cast Away (2000) about Mark Watney, a charming, optimistic, sarcastic, and witty guy who happens to be an astronaut who, yeah, maybe got lost in space.

Really though, this book is unexpectedly hilarious considering its subject matter. The Martian is serious and has a surprising and wonderfully tense ending, but I honestly laughed out loud during certain points of reading. The narration, done in first-person when told from Mark’s Log Entries and third-person otherwise, is just beautiful; flippant and glib, but with an underlying tone of harried nervousness throughout the whole thing. Mark is, of course, stranded on Mars, and mission control is racing to fix that, so a sense of urgency is understandable.

More than funny, however, The Martian is smart. Mark Watney is not only an astronaut, but also has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Chicago, the ability to sustain himself on Mars, and author Andy Weir has actually made all of this accessible to readers! It helps that the United States has been obsessed with NASA since the Space Race and is not wholly unfamiliar with the jargon, but I credit Weir with the understandability of his work and the ease with which I absorbed some very technical astronautic terminology.

The Martian’s movie adaptation is set to come into theaters November 2015, so I recommend putting a hold on the book through the Library’s catalog right now! For additional reads, be sure to check out “You Might Also Like These”” at the bottom of the catalog page.

This review was previously published by the Deerfield Review.


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