Mark Watney is the coolest guy on the planet. Or – I guess I should say the coolest guy on a planet. Mars, actually. In The Martian, the 2011 debut novel from American programmer and author Andy Weir, Watney is a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars after a crazy-intense dust storm forced his team to make an emergency evacuation without him. Now, everyone on Earth thinks he is dead.
Turns out, Watney is very much alive on a hostile planet with no way to contact his team or HQ. He’s got to harness his botany and mechanical engineering skills for small things like…creating water and food out of literal thin air. After a series of fortunate events, contact is finally made between Watney and NASA HQ – and what ensues is a thrilling and surprisingly funny race against the biological clock to get Watney back on Earth safely.
I found the novel to be enthralling and captivating all the way through – a definite page-turner and a story that stays with you longer after you’ve finished reading the last page. And here’s the thing – maybe I’m an easy sell, but Weir’s Robinson Crusoe-like account reads like a completely credible, totally probable account. More sci, less fi.
With that said, chemistry-laden passages in Watney’s daily journal got to be a bit of a snooze fest. I found my eyes glazing over when he started pontificating on potatoes but if you’re a scientist or just someone who can get down with talking about burning hydrazine to make water, those parts will probably make you dig the story even more.
Final verdict: Summer is sticking around for another month or so and the Martian is the perfect warm weather escape – and when I say escape, we’re talking light years. Oh, and naturally the movie adaptation starring Matt Damon is set to premiere in October. And naturally Jessica Chastain says the line “let’s go get our boy” in the trailer so better to read it now before the movie hype happens.