The Martian — short book review

I haven’t read many books this year I would describe as ‘unputdownable’, except The Martian, by Andy Weir. The premise of the story (which is revealed in the very first page) is an astronaut accidentally taken for dead and stranded on Mars, and his fight to survive against all odds as the only human on the planet.

The beautiful thing about a science fiction work is the insight it provides into current technology. Stories set in the far future fail quite miserably with technology. I remember reading the Foundation trilogy and wondering why an entire family would crowd around a single tele-visor set or have spacious libraries when we already have multiple television sets in a home and more than 10 books in the smallest of ebook readers. The Martian, however, is set in the near future and does a splendid job of basing itself on realistic technology. Make no mistake, the book is quite technical and isn’t for those that do not understand or like math, physics, basic biology, and chemistry.

While I did feel that character development was not Weir’s forte, his protagonist is one of the pluckiest, fast thinking characters in modern literature, with a killer survival instinct. The book is sharp and fast paced, leaving no time for emotion. It isn’t about how the protagonist feels, it is about what he must do so as to not drop dead, and that is all. The story moves quickly, almost as fast as the protagonist has to move to keep away from death. The language is easy and free flowing, and focuses on the story rather than the writing. The book also ends exactly where it should, without going to drama. In effect, the book, like the life of the character, is stripped of everything except bare essentials — a story, the science to back up that story, and one well developed primary character.

I would definitely put this one under ‘Must Read’ and recommend it to everyone, especially engineers and those that have a liking for science.


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