Review: The Martian

The Martian is a fun little piece of science fiction.

The setting is on the red planet, some decades in the future1, with an astronaut stranded on the surface while the rest of his team aborts and starts on the long journey back to earth. He has to survive long enough to perhaps be picked up by the next set of Mars-bound astronauts, and has to use all the equipment available from various past and present and even near-future missions. Familiar with parts of biology, chemistry, physics, and even space-faring history, our hero McGuyvers his way through a hostile environment really doesn’t feel like supporting human life naturally.

But back to the fun part. I’d characterize the vast majority of the science fiction that I read as being self-serious: there is a gravity to the storyline and the characters interact with each other and the surroundings with an accompanying sense of gravitas. It ends up creating stories that are appropriately epic, with considerations for extrapolated technology and science which provoke interesting thought experiments and “what if” daydreams.

The story is largely told as a series of journal entries that combine science (e.g., how various compounds mix to form less/more hazardous compounds) with sharp commentary on the absurdity of his situation. The Martian is different in part because the science isn’t that fantastic compared to our modern-day understanding, but also because the main character is a likable and funny guy, and his narration is meant to not be neutral. The story has perspective and color, and does not overstay its welcome.

I’d definitely recommend this book to both sci-fi lovers and detractors alike.

  1. And as implausible as that sounds right now with our existing ambitions and available equipment (and budget), there are still people who believe in going to Mars and have real plans to get there, along with volunteers willing to make a one-way trip.

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