One problem science fiction books often are faced with is their inability to truly connect with the reader. Often times the author will get so caught up in explaining the setting or the background in the technology that he or she fails to write in such a way that hooks the reader, through dynamic characters or an engaging plot. The Martian, however, manages to perfectly balance humor with tragedy, and weaves the necessary science into the plot in a way where the story remains captivating. The author ultimately delivers a story that is appealing to many.
The Martian traces the story of Mark Watney, a quick-witted and resourceful botanist and mechanical engineer on the Ares III Mars mission. When a fierce dust storm occurs, the crew is forced to evacuate. However, Mark is hit by flying debris and lost in the storm. Believing him to be dead, the remaining Ares III crew abandons the mission, unintentionally leaving Mark behind on the isolated planet. With no way initially to contact Earth, Mark must rely on his own ingenuity to survive. Meanwhile, upon discovering Mark’s survival, NASA must work to figure out a way to bring him home.
Though the overall message conveyed in the book is philosophical and at times, weighty and somewhat depressing, the book is written in such a way that the story remains appropriately light and often times humorous, with laugh-out-loud moments interlaced with perfectly timed profanity. However, the story still manages to keep the reader on the edge of their seats, wondering what obstacle Mark will face next or what problem NASA will be confronted with in the seemingly impossible endeavor.
As a reader, I found myself absolutely immersed in Weir’s writing, and discovered myself almost surprised to be learning the science behind the plot. The style in which the book is written- as journal entries written by Mark- allows the reader to feel even more connected to this character as the story continues. This leads to the reader being further engaged in the plot, finding themselves devastated with each of Mark’s failures or setbacks, and practically jumping for joy with his victories. Weir writes in such a way where as readers, we are able to dive into and thoroughly enjoy the story and characters, but at the same time, not lose the message of the novel.
Ultimately, the Martian is a novel about a human’s will to survive when faced with seemingly impossible odds. We watch Mark struggle in total isolation with the constant fear of death, and how despite this, he remains optimistic. The Martian is a story of grit, suffering, optimism, and triumph against all odds, and is a truly enjoyable read for everyone who picks it up.