S. J. Kelley

Tag Archive: Self-pubbed

Book review: The Martian, by Andy Weir

themartian5/5 stars

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?” — Amazon blurb

I’m normally not a big sci-fi reader (my husband is the sci-fi fan in this house), but after I heard about this on the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast more than once, I had to read it. Both times the book was mentioned, those discussing it didn’t even want to talk about what it was about, for fear that they would ruin it for the audience. Color me intrigued. I bought the hardcover, because I figured this book would be good enough to earn a permanent position on my bookshelf. I wasn’t wrong.

This book was unputdownable. It takes place in the not so distant future, when mankind has just started sending manned missions to Mars. This is mission number three, and they accidentally leave one of the astronauts behind, thinking he was dead. The story takes off from there, chronicling his time on Mars and his attempts to survive.

A good portion of the book is a series of log entries, but then it starts to switch back and forth between log entries and regular third person prose. I initially found this quite jarring, because the voice of the main character is very distinct and the book had stayed in the log entry style for quite some time before introducing this other perspective. That said, after a while I got used to it, and even within those third person prose sections, the voices of the characters came out (although many of the characters shared the same personality in their quips).

Looking at this as a writer, I think Andy Weir’s strong point is his voice and his conversational style, but at the same time I felt there could be more diversity across characters. In a way the book had one dominant voice: a very intelligent person under pressure, who nonetheless can see the humor in a situation. I thought the character could develop more across the book, but I think his steady personality suited the story in the end. There were times when his base personality shuddered a bit, but I wouldn’t classify those times as “opportunities for character growth.”

Multiple times when I was reading this book, I told my husband that it was the best book I have ever read. It certainly kept me turning the pages. I have read other books with better world building, and other books with better character growth, but this one was one of the best at keeping me glued to the page, worried about the character. Mark Watney was a good man with an admirable personality, and I was rooting for him the whole way. I can count on one hand the times that I have flipped ahead in a book because I could not stand to have to keep reading to wait to see what happened (and I’m one of those people that if a book is said to be good, I try to not even read the dust jacket because I want the true immersive experience!) I had to flip ahead three times when reading The Martian.

I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone, whether you like sci-fi or not. I really liked the message of the book, which was, for once, a positive and lovely statement about humanity: that when someone is trouble, everyone, in every culture, has a desire to help them. They also used this as the opening to the movie trailer. It was so nice to have a book that touted the virtues of humanity, at a time when most books seem to explore the tragic consequences of being human.