Andy Weir’s book, The Martian, is the perfect book for me. It is a topic I am passionate about, written in a style that I find appealing, and contains loads of geeky science that I find fascinating. Therefore it should be no surprise that I almost didn’t read it. I have seen the novel on several e-book sites for weeks as I tried to decide what my next book would be. I kept shying away from this novel because I have become jaded about modern science fiction. Especially fiction about exploration. Authors rarely manage to write a story that isn’t full of cliches or stories where the science takes a back seat to melodrama. I almost always end up getting frustrated by the effort. So I avoided being disappointed by just not reading it.
The event that caused me to change my mind is somewhat vague in my mind. I know it was an online review but I can’t remember exactly where or by whom. I know that the part of the review that sold me was a line that said that if you weren’t into detailed and accurate scientific problem solving this book wasn’t for you. I of course am totally into that kind of thing and I so rarely encounter it in mainstream fiction. So I downloaded a sample of the book on Google Play.
The Martian is a story about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is a member of a manned mission to Mars. The story beings with him waking up alone on the red planet. Though a series of accidents he has been left behind on the alien world, his shipmates having been convinced he has been killed. What follows is his story of survival and attempts to contact earth and to be rescued. The problems he faces in survival are all solved with sound scientific solutions. The author, Andy Weir, wanted the science to be right. He researched everything to make sure his story was plausible and realistic. The story works and you quickly empathize with Watney and root for him to succeed. You hold your breath when he tries his next dangerous idea to increase his chance for survival.
The story of course fans the embers of a natural desire to explore the universe. It also awakens a bitterness inside me that as a culture we have squandered our legacy of exploration from the 1960’s and 1970’s. We spent decades restricting ourselves to low earth orbit instead of pushing farther out into our solar system. Even the ISS, which is an amazing accomplishment, should be so much more. We should be so much farther advanced in this area than we are. It is not, as some say, a waste of resources. The drive to explore necessarily involves expanding technology which benefits mankind in general. This novel embodies that thought. The human element is essential to exploration.
The other amazing thing about this novel is that it exists at all. Andy Weir had no publisher. He published the novel himself. First as a serialized version on his website and then self published using Amazon’s e-book publishing service. Now the book is a NYT Bestseller and he has a movie deal. It is a great story of how modern technology can allow people to do great things.
If you are a fan of space exploration, good writing, and science this is the book for you. You should download a sample today from the e-book publisher of your choice. If you are still reading paper you can probably find a physical copy somewhere..I’ve forgotten how to do that after more than three years without buying a physical book.