Book Review: The Martian

While I was on jury duty, one of the books I was reading during my wait time was The Martian by Andy Weir. Ridley Scott is directing the movie adaptation starring Matt Damon, which I'll discuss in my upcoming monthly film trailer roundup, but for now let's discuss the novel.

The Martian is science fiction at its finest. It's a "realistic" account of an astronaut/botanist/engineer named Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars. It chronicles his efforts to survive and return to Earth. There are no monsters, no supernatural forces, no magic -- just excellent characters and speculative storytelling, full of suspense and exciting plot developments. 

It's an emotional roller coaster from the first page right up until the exciting conclusion.  The narrative is mainly Watney's log as he writes about the challenges he faces, thinking through his options, and implementing his ideas to live long enough to be rescued, despite the odds.  

At one point, the style of the book changes to a more traditional third person format, showing the reactions on Earth (and later aboard the spaceship Hermes, whose crew thought Watney had died, only to discover that they had left him behind alone on the Red Planet very much alive).  Initially I was disappointed by this move, since I'd been so enthralled by the flow of the story so far, but it quickly proved to be an excellent choice by Weir.  Those sections ended up being some of the best moments in the entire story. 

The cast of characters makes us laugh, cheer, and gasp, and the plot rolls along with shocks and thrills, never a dull moment -- unless you count some of the math.  Watney himself calls it "boring math" at one point, but it is delivered in an interesting manner, always moving the plot forward, and it's fantastic to have a likable scientist as the central character actually doing "science stuff!" Maybe some young readers will be inspired to pursue science or math as a career, or maybe some adults will better appreciate the need for investment in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). 

I highly recommend The Martian to all of you who might be reading this.  Also, if anyone asks you for a recommendation for a book to read on the beach or vacation (or jury duty), don't hesitate to confidently answer "The Martian by Andy Weir!"