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Staff Review: The Martian

Originally posted on Tuesday, 06 May 2014 at ROPL.org.

By Andy Weir
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

Andy Weir’s novel about Mars isn’t really about Mars. Or Aliens. Or science fiction the way we’re used to thinking about it. Instead, The Martian is about the human condition. It’s about survival and using what we know in order to survive when, well, everything thinks we’re already dead. You see, The Martian is about a man who accidentally gets stranded on Mars. No, really. You’re going to love this book.

Originally released in 2011 as an ebook, The Martian follows the story of Mark Watney, botanist and mechanical engineer. He’s part of a crew going to Mars. When something goes wrong and the crew has to abandon their mission, Watney accidentally gets left behind. He thinks he’s dead (at first, obviously) and his crew thinks he’s dead as well. But he’s not. What he is, though, is stuck on Mars.

I’m not going to tell you what happens, suffice to say that Watney does a lot MacGyvering, science and math (as part of SF author John Scalzi’s Big Idea project, Weir wrote up a post talking about math and his novel). What results is a really fun novel. It puts the science back in science fiction (though you can find the library’s copy in our fiction collection), which is especially poignant because the novel is set in a future that might end up being like ours.

The Martian is incredibly enjoyable and entertainingly written. Watney, and the few other characters we meet, are interesting and compelling. We follow Watney through a lot of hardship and Weir makes everything believable. He also does a fantastic job mixing humor (there are a lot of pop culture references that both young and old will appreciate) with desperation (after all, Watney is stuck on Mars, alone!).

Even if you don’t like science fiction, you should check out The Martian. It’s real in a way so few SF books are. You won’t regret it, I promise!

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