Review by Carol Goodwin
Our newest correspondent Carol Goodwin sends in the first of hopefully many contributions to House On The Borderland, a very topical and timely review of the book which inspired the film currently filling cinemas world-wide, starring Matt Damon as the book’s protagonist, Mark Watney.
- THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
- Publisher: Del Rey
- Size: 384 page paperback
- RRP: £7.99
- ISBN 978-0091956141
This science fiction book has been hugely popular both inside and outside the SF field.
It has already been a Sunday Times bestseller, made the Richard and Judy list and is readily available on supermarket shelves, not the norm for most straight SF books.
With all this attention, I was somewhat worried whether the book could live up to all the hype. Well, I need not have worried – this is a good old-fashioned SF book which is full of adventure, meticulous science research and a gripping page-turner. The film version is now showing in cinemas and I am looking forward to comparing them.
The story is set in the near future. Shortly after landing on Mars, the six-person crew of the third manned mission to Mars (Ares 3) are forced to abort the mission and evacuate due to a massive storm threatening the living base. In the confusion, astronaut Mark Watney is injured, separated and left for dead when his monitors show no life signs. He awakens to find himself marooned on Mars with no way to communicate and the next mission isn’t due for four years. Trapped on a planet where any mistake could kill him, this is a riveting story of his ingenious efforts to survive.
The story alternates between his “first person” log entries and the “third person” viewpoint of the Earth-based scientists and the homebound Ares 3 crew. Mark Watney as a character is well-drawn and immensely likeable. His log entries feel like a real person’s voice and his use of humour to keep himself going works very well. Importantly, he is not perfect and he does make mistakes but his determination and perseverance get you involved and willing him to survive.
While the technical detail might put some people off, it does not feel heavy handed. In fact this is one of the major joys of this book to me. I love the puzzle of “How is he going to get out of this?” and the logical, real solutions he finds. I am not a physics/engineering expert by any stretch of the imagination but the technical accuracy seems right to me. The problems and solutions used feel incredibly well-researched and detailed and the author has clearly spent a lot of time trying to get things correct.
Hard SF adventure
The novel has been described as “Robinson Crusoe in Space” and this is a very good description. It reminds me of some of the early hard SF I read and loved and which first got me into the field, particularly Arthur C Clarke’s A FALL OF MOONDUST or astronomer/writer Hugh Walters’ children’s Chris Godfrey series.
To get a further flavour of The Martian, you can read an extract from the book in pdf format here.
If you like your SF with a good mixture of accurate science and adventure then this book is highly recommended.
(Review copy kindly donated by Del Rey)
About the reviewer
More info about the book, which is available through bookstores and online, may be found on the Del Rey website.