Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

I loved The Martian by Andy Weir. I thought it was thrilling, funny, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I read it on Kindle so that I could read a few pages whenever I got a chance. I actually read it in about two days. I’ve read a lot of other reviews for this book and most of them reminded me of how many trolls there are out there. So many people want everything to be accurate, feasible, and set firmly in the realm of reality, while not being too technical. Where’s the fun in that?!?

I couldn’t give a crap less if this book was rooted in legitimate science. There was enough scientific mumbo-jumbo in this book to make it feel real to me. Does it really matter if the minute percentage of the population that does understand the science behind it all says, “This is ridiculous. This could never happen,” when most people float past those technical terms none the wiser to their inaccuracies? I don’t think it matters. I mean, it’s a work of fiction. It is supposed to be false, fictional, and not real. So why the fuck does it matter one goddamned bit whether the science could actually pan out?

The premise of the book is interesting. A guy gets injured and left behind on Mars. They figure out he’s not dead and frantically try to figure out how to bring him home before he starves. The perspective shifts back and forth between log posts made on Mars—which do read a bit like a ranting blog, but I found them witty, charming, and intriguing—and a more traditional narrative with dialogue of what’s happening back on Earth with the team trying to communicate with him and also get him home. Closer to the end, we also get to peek into the spaceship that’s loaded with the astronauts who left him behind.

I liked the shifting perspective as well as its unorthodox use. It was a good amount into the book before we ever saw anything not on Mars. I was actually surprised when suddenly we’re back on Earth, in Mission Control, following conversations, discoveries, and debates over how to handle his situation of being left behind. But I feel that it worked well and the book would not have had the punch that it did if we’d been following all three perspectives equally.

I loved the profanity, the silliness, and the dark, self-deprecating sense of humor. I appreciated the math, though I’m certain many people did not care for it and skimmed over any technical stuff. But, in my eyes and mind, the technical stuff is what really sold the story. Without having the math and science that went over my head, it wouldn’t have felt as real and believable as it did. Again, I’m well aware of how its lack of perfect accuracy and feasibility has rubbed some pedants the wrong way, but I feel that it is in the optimal sweet spot. This book has hit the “Goldilocks zone” as far as science and technology goes. It’s not too much that it turns off most readers, only some that are too lazy to think and probably only enjoy reading dreck I’d put down after ten minutes. It’s also not lacking in scientific jargon (I still haven’t looked up what a SOL is, even though that was how he measured his days while on Mars) which is what makes it feel so believable. If this book, mostly written from the perspective of a scientist trying to keep records but also stay sane in his solitude, had been entirely in layman’s terms, I’d have put it down after ten minutes.

Also, the profanity helped. Seriously. I fucking loved that shit. I have such a goddamned dirty mouth. I even swear after I sneeze. It’s always refreshing for me to see so many curse words in print. My editor has me remove much of the cussing in my own books, which is kind of…whatever. At least it’s not all of it. And at least people are finally starting to fucking realize that people who swear frequently do not do it for lack of vocabulary. It is merely that our verbosity is so vast that we say such filthy things. Ah, but that rant is for another time. Google it yourself. Science backs it up. So, the plethora of profanity in this book was reassuring to me. Smart people swear and curse. This guy is supposed to be smart enough to survive on Mars, so he should exclaim expletives often. And he most certainly does. I find it refreshing.

The silliness was fantastic. I laughed out loud several times, the most notable of which was the pirate-ninjas. I loved the corny puns and silly dad-jokes.

Personally, I think this is a great book. I will definitely read it again someday. It is certainly not for everyone, though. You really do need to have a certain kind of sense of humor to enjoy this book. If you’re silly, weird, profane, and a little nerdy without being a complete pedant, then you’ll love this book, too.