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The Martian by Andy Weir – A Review

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Sometimes, you find a real gem of a novel which has seemingly come from nowhere. The Martian by Andy Weir is one such gem. It’s got great atmosphere, intriguing plot twists and characters that you almost think are real.

At first we follow the NASA astronaut Mark Watney, our main character, who is part of the crew of Ares 3. Unfortunately, because of a dust storm, the crew of the space craft had to evacuate their landing site, and Watney is injured during the evacuation. As a result, his suit’s bio-monitor computer is damaged, causing his five crewmates to believe him to be dead.

After this has all been established, the novel really becomes one about survival and how people will really push themselves to their limits in life or death situations. Through sheer strength of will and thanks to his scientific knowledge and technical skills – some of which have been developed by his career at NASA and some of which he just happens to know – Watney has a chance to survive even without contact with Earth.

One really great aspect of this novel is the reality that Weir has imbued his plot with. Although Watney is spotted by people back on Earth and a rescue plan is hatched, Watney continues to not only survive, but also live whilst the rescue mission is planned and prepared for. He plans a mission to the Schiparelli crater, where Ares 4 will land in four years’ time.

Watney, however, faces more and more threats to his survival as his plants die and he faces starvation. The way that tension is built and created throughout the novel is simply superb, and there are moments that you really think there is no way for Watney to get out of his dire situation, and yet there is always some ingenious – and believable – way that he manages to find just in the nick of time.

The plans that are made to get Watney out of immediate danger are intricate, and some readers may be put off at the amount of technical detail that the author sometimes goes into. However, if you don’t mind wading through a lot of techno-babble or through a lot of plans being made and tweaked, then this part will be easy enough to get through. The novel never feels like it’s trying to exclude a reader who doesn’t understand what’s being said, so the technological stuff is never too distracting. Rather, it just adds to the realism and helps make the setting and the problems being faced more realistic.

If you like anything set in space, and if you like reading about the amazing feats that people can achieve even when given limited resources and stuck in the most remote of places, then you are going to love The Martian. The characters are well written and are compelling: you really want Watney to make it out and the whole time, despite being alone and isolated for the majority of the novel, he is an intriguing and compelling man to read about.

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