The Martian is a rare breed of science fiction where the science is plentiful (though it never feels like too much) and feels real, and the fiction is firmly grounded in reality. It’s a masterpiece of the genre, and one of my favorite books I’ve read in a long time.
Like many people reading The Martian this year, I picked it up because I was excited for the Ridley Scott adaptation coming in October. What I didn’t expect was to like the book this much, or to worry about how they’re going to capture this book on film. Ridley Scott and Matt Damon are both excellent at what they do, but this is a tough story to tell on film.
It’s tough because most of the book follows astronaut Mark Watney, who was presumed dead and left behind on Mars after a sudden dust storm forced Ares 3 to leave the planet early. He doesn’t die — he is the titular Martian, after all — and instead must come up with a way to survive and hopefully return to Earth.
In an interview at the end of the book, Andy Weir says he’s not an author. In fact, The Martian is only the second book he’s ever written, and he hates the first one so much that it’s not even available online. But his writing style is so engaging and easy to read that the book’s 368 pages fly by. Watney is incredibly sarcastic, which brings a routine dash of humor to what could otherwise be nearly 400 pages of pure science. Supposedly, the science checks out, too. I’ll take Weir at his word on that front.
The Martian is a new addition to my list of all-time favorite sci-fi books, and a book that’s very easy to recommend. I’m cautiously optimistic for the movie, but even if it fails to adapt the book, at least we have Weir’s work. You’ll fly through these 368 pages; you could probably knock this one out in an afternoon if you sink your teeth into it. The Martian is absolutely worth your time.