I just read The Martian by Andy Weir.
Wow. Loved it. The first line is brilliant.
Talk about starting a scene in the middle of the action.
“I’m pretty much fucked.”
I mean, seriously. How could you not read more of that. You know you want to know more, right?
The front cover has this beautiful image of an astronaut surround by a haunting orange background of Martian dust.
That combined with that first line tells you everything you need to know about the genre.
First, science fiction. Because astronauts and Mars. Second, adventure suspense. Because the main character starts out in trouble. Third, his choice to use rough language in the sentence shows us that this will be gritty and real. And warns off anyone who is sensitive to language. He boldly puts it right on the first line of the novel.
I can hear the author saying, “If you don’t like rough language, go fuck yourself.”
That’s basically what happens in the first line of that book.
Now that I’ve spent several paragraphs talking about the opening line, let’s talk about some other elements of this New York Times Bestseller.
The pacing is marvelous and the stakes are raised with every new challenge Mark the (now) Martian faces.
There are some interesting POV choices. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of them. While I do like that he switches heads so we can feel tension from people other than Mark, I think there were a few too many point of view switches. It made it a little difficult to get truly invested in the other characters. It would have been nice if Weir had developed some of those other characters a little bit. I didn’t mind hearing from them, just would have liked to have heard a little more. And every now and then, you’d have omniscient narrator guy butt in, which pulled me out of the story.
However, I understand why he did it. It was great for the reader to know some things they couldn’t have known if we’d seen every single thing from Mark’s viewpoint. In some cases, we knew more than Mark did about his situation because we were in other people’s head and that helped to ratchet up the tension for us. I think he needed the head-hopping to tell the story, but I think it could have been done a little more effectively.
But that is me being nit-picky. Because I really enjoyed the story. I read it in just two sittings and I only had to stop in the middle because I had to sleep.
There is enough science to keep it interesting, but not so much that it is boring to a non-science person.
Mars itself becomes a character over the course of the book, and not just any character, but the villain. A villain you really want to see the hero defeat. I really enjoyed the way the author brought the planet to life without digressing to more detail than we needed as lay people.
In a book that spends a lot of time in one persons head, the author did an amazing job of playing off some of the items in Mark’s environment and giving them a personality. The hab that he lives in, the rover that he adventures in, his EVA suit—all these things come to have personalities of their own and you come to rely on what they will and won’t do to help Mark survive. It was a really clever way to add depth to his POV.
I won’t write any spoilers in this, because you should really go read the book. It’ll take you a few hours and you’ll enjoy the ride. You might need some popcorn and an anti-anxiety drug.
Final words: Great book. Stimulating, fun, action-packed, suspenseful. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for this page turner.