Author: Andy Weir
Read by: R. C. Bray
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.
It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission 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 get 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. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
It’s going to sound like I’m telling you spoilers, but almost everything I mention here is already on the jacket cover or takes place in the first few chapters of the book. Astronaut Mark Watney ends up stranded on Mars with just his wits and a limited supply of resources with which to survive. Not only must he figure out how to make do until someone comes to take him back to Earth (or he dies of misadventure), he’s got to figure out how not to go crazy. Luckily, he’s got a diverse set of technical skills, a sarcastic sense of humor, and a few decades’ (uh, the 70’s and 80’s) worth of classic TV and music to keep him company.
Weir infuses Watney with humor and likeable snark which will have the reader rooting for him to make it back home. While a couple of details seem remarkably contrived (what, really, are the chances that a crew would be sent on a Mars mission with some non-freeze-dried potatoes that can subsequently be grown and harvested to extend his food supply?) the rest of the plot plays out like an immensely convoluted, bizarrely complicated, and yet unexpectedly riveting math problem. By a third of the way through, I’d stopped worrying about contrivances and began to just really enjoy the ride.
I listened to this on audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed R. C. Bray’s performance. He did an admirable job of bringing to life not just Watney, but also the secondary characters, who I think are a bit flat on paper, but really round out the audiobook version of the novel. The harried Venkat Kapoor, foul-mouthed PR person Annie Montrose, and the little nuclear family formed by the Hermes crew help make the story a little less one-man-show, a little more humanity joining together for a common cause. Without the point of view changing at various points in the story, this would have been an interminably tedious read.
Listening to the book has also gotten me really excited about the film version, which stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney. The film is due out around Thanksgiving 2015, with Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, and Chiwetel Ejiofor rounding out the supporting cast. The only issue I really had with casting was that two characters who I assumed were going to be Asian women (I mean, really–Mindy Park? Ryoko?) are played by white actresses. Tsk, tsk.
The Martian is a must for fans of sci-fi, geekery, and humor. Fun fact: it was originally self-published, then re-released by Crown in 2014. While I’m sure it’s fine in print, I highly recommend the audio version as a stellar reading experience.