What do you get if you put super-science fiction, MacGyver, math genius, and infantile snark in a test tube, seal it, and watch as the seemingly opposing forces collide? A damned entertaining book called The Martian. I don’t generally summarize plot too in-depth, but I can get pretty succinct:
Man gets left on Mars, man has to use his super-brain to duct-tape-and-glue his way to survival and rescue. Also man has a Sophomore pledge’s sense of humor, so boob and that’s-what-she-said jokes abound.
If you like science fiction, this book is for you. If you don’t like science fiction, this book is still for you. Don’t let yourself be scared off, there’s no aliens or laser beams. It’s all mathematics and slight extrapolation that feels incredibly real and genuine. Andy Weir is some sort of math prodigy (He’s been a programmer since he was 15. I played football, slept a lot, and prayed for miracle acne cures when I was 15. What did you do?). He also charts orbits and does insane-level calculus for fun.
Let me repeat the salient points for you: Calculus. Orbits. For fun.
The impressive math skills of the author notwithstanding, his incredibly detailed mathematics actually lend a very stark authenticity to both the character of Mark Watney, the setting, and the story-line. This guy did some serious homework, between the calculations, the Mars geography, NASA history, and technical descriptions, and I bet he enjoyed every minute of it. Bastard.
A reader can get a bit mired-down in the endless litany of numbers and equations, especially in the beginning of the narrative, which is always the worry when you go too science-heavy in Sci-Fi, or any genre. My one complaint for The Martian is the first narrative reprieve outside of Mark Watney’s occasional hilarious journal entries comes a bit too late. When it comes, it off-sets the conversational, dare I say “blog-like” tone of the journal entries with some straightforward third-person narration with the same dry wit translated into the dialogue. I know some engineers, super math geeks, government employees, and many differing combinations of the three. This is how they interact. I swear.
To get a bit more Meta, the overly-technical descriptions in the journal could be perceived as a scientific mind’s struggle to stay sane in utter isolation an unimaginable distance from home. He rarely if ever gets too dark and self-defeating. Every writer is an arm-chair psychologist, and when I read this I felt the journal entries and super-math walkthroughs would be exactly what any nerd stranded on Mars would use to stay in the right frame of mind. Just my two cents. You can take it if you want it.
I give The Martian 4.5 out of 5 emoticon boobies (.Y.). When you read the book you’ll understand. With the movie on the horizon, go out and grab this (or download it) and read it before you see the Matt Damon version. It’s a quick read, and the author’s story is just as interesting as the protagonist’s. Go read it.