Book chat: ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir

The MartianI must be broken.

While everyone and their book-loving great aunt has been raving about Andy Weir’s The Martian (seriously: look at all these five-star reviews), I was over here listening to the story on audio and trying not to fall asleep on the road.

The story centers on astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist stranded on Mars after his colleagues believe he has been killed during a powerful dust storm. They reluctantly depart to save themselves, but no one feels good about it. No man — or woman -– left behind.

After he comes-to in the barren red landscape light years from home, Mark must take stock of his limited resources and find a way to communicate with Earth. He uses his wits, experience and sense of humor to stay alive and fed as NASA scrambles to save him — with the eyes of the world watching.

The premise was definitely intriguing, especially given how obsessed I was with last year’s “Interstellar” and my general love of outer space. Fun fact? Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” defined my early marriage. Spencer and I never missed an episode, often settling down on busy weeknights to re-watch ones we’d already seen. I was all about it.

I married a scientist, so my interest in science-y stuff does come in handy . . . but, you know, I was an English major. Despite my love of the subject, I don’t know much about space — or survival.

Maybe that’s partially what hurt me here?

Along with high expectations, of course. The Martian is everywhere right now, with a high-profile film starring Matt Damon due to release this fall. Everyone I know who has hunkered down with this fast-paced tale has loved it, so I assumed I would love it, too.

But I didn’t. It was . . . missing something. Though initially hard to pin down, I’ll describe it as a lack of emotional investment. As a narrator, Mark is funny, compelling, smart and sarcastic — definitely a great character. I liked him. I felt for him. But did I ever truly worry for his fate? Not so much.

Buddy Trish recently commented that she believes it will make a better movie than book, and I agree. The trailer definitely got me hyped up. All the extremely science-y science may better translate on film. As it stood? I didn’t have the attention span necessary to follow the intricate plan for Mark’s survival, totally zoning out as he described the math needed to ensure he could grow enough potatoes to survive until possible salvation.

And that was just the beginning.

Though I wasn’t emotionally invested in the outcome, I definitely appreciate Weir’s writing. He builds suspense — will he make it, or won’t he? — and deftly brings hostile, lonely Mars to life. Between its storms and desolate landscape, it’s not exactly a place conducive to life. Yet Mark’s ingenuity allows him to tame the red planet, finding a way to subsist despite all reasoning saying he shouldn’t be able to.

Also, it’s fun to see under “settings” in the middle of my 2015 reading log spreadsheet:

New York City, New York, USA
Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA

The audio narration by R. C. Bray was fantastic. If you’re toying between reading the story or listening to it, I heartily recommend the latter. Bray perfectly nailed the tone of the story and seamlessly shifted between characters, with his portrayal of Mark being the definite highlight.

Though The Martian won’t go down as an all-time favorite, I’m happy I read it — and was impressed to learn that Weir’s science is sound. Plus, it was originally self-published . . . and as a writer, that earns an extremely impressed thumbs-up.

3 out of 5

Pub: 2011 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio book borrowed from my local library

11 thoughts on “Book chat: ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir

  1. I agree with your comments. Although I did enjoy reading The Martian I thought there was too much science and math. I appreciate what a person must know to survive on Mars, but it didn’t make the read exciting! I also think it will be a better movie.


  2. Didn’t know they were going to make it into a film. Matt Damon was in Interstellar too. What is it with him playing a stranded astronaut twice over? :>

    I saw Interstellar on the big screen, and the visuals kept me in my seat (the story had a few holes, but, hey, it’s Hollywood, right?). Looking forward to this one.


  3. A friend of mine bought this right after it was released – both she and her husband loved it. She lent it to me and it’s been lingering on my nightstand forever. She says she’s in no hurry to get it back but I’m thinking maybe I just need to return it unread.


  4. I’ve been dying to read this one because I’ve always had a fascination with space… but I definitely do not have a math or science brain so I’m a bit worried I’ll get confused. Another English major over here! I need to read it before the movie comes out though!


  5. I think you’re right about the missing something, although I think most people would like, if not love, the book – Mark Watney is such a great character.

    me, I love science, especially space and nature. No surprise I loved. loved, loved the book. But then, I like to read science-y detail, especially when it is accurate.


  6. This is a book that I have on my must-read list due to all the amazing reviews. But, I’ve been putting it off because it isn’t the style book that normally grabs me – I am a little hesitant as to whether or not I will enjoy it. The movie (and Matt Damon) looks great! 🙂


  7. Ah, what? I’m surprised you didn’t love it!

    I listened to this on audio, as well, and loved it! I actually got ahold of this book a while ago, maybe 2 years? Before the movie talk, so I went into it without expectation, which I always think helps me connect with a book more openly.


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  9. I’m sorry that you did not like this one. I loved it. I thought the science was easy to understand and therefore fascinating as a result. Unlike you, I am not quite certain it will translate well to the big screen. The humor is what made this one of my favorite books of 2014, and I just do not know if Ridley Scott will be able to capture that.


  10. I am one of those who enjoyed this book a lot. I liked how he managed to survive those many days in Mars. Plus I am an engineer so maybe that’s why I am biased? But, I didn’t like the ending and the book is certainly very dramatic so it will probably make a much better movie than book. I did wish that the author wrote the book more as literary fiction and less as a screenplay for a movie.


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